Departmental Learning Goals

Anthropology Learning Goals 

Anthropology approaches the study of humans from multiple perspectives, ranging in focus from the evolution of homo sapiens, to understanding major cultural-evolutionary changes through time, to the study of present-day societies. Bryn Mawr’s Anthropology department is one of only a few liberal arts college departments in the nation to offer coursework in all four subfields of American Anthropology:  

  • Anthropological Archaeology, which studies patterns of prehistoric human settlement, migration, and interaction with the environment in different times and places 
  • Biological Anthropology, which studies human evolution, growth, and development 
  • Cultural Anthropology, which studies social organization, belief systems, and conflict in present-day societies
  • Linguistic Anthropology, which studies language and other forms of expressive and symbolic culture and their effects.   

Together, these provide a curriculum that encourages students to see the human condition from multiple perspectives and to gain experience in utilizing different modes of inquiry, ranging from quantitative methods used in the natural sciences to qualitative methods used in the humanistic social sciences.

Anthropology Departmental Learning Goal Bryn Mawr Learning Outcomes

1. To grasp the relevance of contemporary debates and issues in anthropology for understanding and critiquing imbalances of power and crises of our present-day world.

Critical thinking; ability to view problems from multiple perspectives

Introductory and elective courses emphasize the value of grounded anthropological approaches for addressing “big” problems such as gender and racial discrimination and other forms of inequality, political instability, health disparities, environmental degradation and climate change, migration, etc. Most of our courses focus on or include significant amounts of material on the Global South, providing a crucial perspective distinct from that of Euro-American contexts.

2. To understand how contemporary anthropology reconstructs the outlines and patterns of human biological evolution and prehistoric cultural change.

Ability to view problems from multiple perspectives; quantitative skills

Courses in Anthropological Archaeology and Biological Anthropology introduce students to the ways evidence from different sources can be put together, combining theory and method the social and natural sciences. Studies in these fields often involve quantitative methods and the modalities of scientific inquiry.

3. To develop knowledge of, respect for, and interest in cultural and societal differences.

Critical thinking; research skills

Anthropology promotes awareness and understanding of difference within and between cultures and societies as a basic ethical component of a 21st century education. Many of our courses require students to think and research comparatively across different geographical and temporal contexts.  

4. To develop an informed and critical perspective on the history of anthropological thought and the production of knowledge more broadly.

Critical thinking; writing skills

All students are required to take a course in the history of anthropological theory in which they learn to develop their own theoretical discussion and writing skills. More generally, all our elective courses train students to critically consider the relationship between data and theory in the production of knowledge.

5. To gain first-hand experience of data collection methods used in one or more subfields of anthropology through class projects and designing and carrying out an independent senior thesis research project.

Research skills; quantitative skills

Many elective courses give students hands-on experience with different research methods such as: ethnographic observation and interviewing; detailed linguistic analysis; analysis of pottery and lithics; bioarchaeology and forensics; analysis of geospatial data.

The capstone experience, a year-long senior thesis, provides each student the opportunity to design and carry out their own independent research project, giving them in-depth experience with at least one kind of data collection method.

6. To gain crucial professional skills, including the ability to write a grant proposal for anthropological research and to present research questions, results, and analysis in oral and written form

Writing skills; oral communication skills; research skills

In the capstone, all students learn the writing and communication skills involved in putting together a professional grant proposal for research. Senior Conference class meetings provide a forum for students to practice their oral communication skills in regularly presenting their own research ideas and giving feedback to others.  Students are guided through the process of organizing and writing a 40–60-page thesis.



Contact Us

Department of Anthropology

Dalton Hall
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Phone: 610-526-5030
Fax: 610-526-5655