Exploring Introductions to Biological Anthropology Before College Using Textbook Content Analysis

Abby Hill

            I wanted to do this project for my Directed Applied Research because I had never even heard of anthropology before coming to college. I chose to do Anthropology 1101 to satisfy a core requirement and immediately fell in love with the discipline. I changed my major to anthropology in the same semester.

            Starting this project, I identified key concepts of biological anthropology and created three main categories: primatology, paleoanthropology, and microevolution. I created more subcategories for each larger category by further identifying specific themes and topics like primate adaptations, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, and misconceptions. By using these, it allowed me to “code” and to analyze qualitative data. I gathered high school biology textbooks from the Teacher Resource and Activity Center in the education building. I only ended up getting five, but I transcribed each section (microevolution, primates, and human evolution) into an Excel spreadsheet. I also took pictures of each figure or diagram in the sections to compare information. Then I used NVivo software to code all of the text and to analyze the themes and concepts that were most commonly used.

Bar graph representing some of the primate species included in the textbooks.

            After doing this project, I found that neither Cobb County nor the Georgia Department of Education require schools to teach biological anthropology in high school. The concepts of microevolution, primatology, and paleoanthropology were available in the high school textbooks, but the primate and human evolution sections were not required to be taught. Four out of the five textbooks were co-authored by the same person which made the content and pictures similar, if not identical. Finding out that anthropology in general wasn’t taught at any level before collegiate, but psychology and sociology are, was a little frustrating because anthropology seems to not get enough attention as a social science. But I’m hopeful that as more disciplines emerge and gain popularity, it will raise more awareness for younger students looking for paths in life that may not be introduced in the public-school system.

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