MAY 17, 2022 — M. Kathryn Brown, Lutcher Brown Endowed Professor in the UTSA Department of Anthropology, received the inaugural Binford Family Award for Teaching Scientific Reasoning in Archaeology from the Society of American Archaeology (SAA).
The award recognizes Brown’s dedication to teaching critical thinking skills and is the latest honor in a string of professional achievements showcasing the focus of the university’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts faculty members on high quality undergraduate education.
Founded in 1934, the SAA is an international organization dedicated to research about interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas. SAA is the second national organization to honor Brown’s teaching excellence. In 2020, the Archaeological Institute of America honored her with its Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.
While a graduate student at Southern Methodist University, Brown studied under Lewis Binford, the acclaimed archaeologist for whom the award is named. This connection with Binford has made the award all the more personal for Brown.
“This award is particularly impactful, as Lewis Binford served as an informal mentor to me while I was in graduate school,” Brown said. “Binford was a very important figure in the discipline of archaeology and I feel most fortunate to have had the opportunity to take several classes from him and to learn the importance of using scientific reasoning in archaeology. In all the courses that I teach today, I emphasize scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills.”
Providing students with critical thinking tools is a passion for Brown. She has developed a full undergraduate course on that topic, which is open to all students regardless of major and without prerequisites. Brown encourages students from colleges outside of COLFA to sign up for the course.
“I teach a course called ‘Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries in Archeology’ that teaches students how to critically evaluate the information that comes to them daily from the news, TV, YouTube, friends, relatives and social media,” Brown said. “Using scientific reasoning, we critically evaluate and debunk numerous pseudoscientific claims about human society in the past. This course provides students with important critical thinking skills, essentially tools that they can use in their lives even if they are not planning to become professional archaeologists.”
In addition to providing a quality experience for undergraduate students, Brown is hopeful that the award and her dedication to teaching outcomes will help attract high quality master’s and doctoral candidates to apply for UTSA’s anthropology graduate programs.
“This award is another feather in the cap for the Department of Anthropology and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts,” she said. “I hope that potential graduate students will pay attention to the incredible teaching and research that often leads to these awards and choose to make UTSA their school of choice for their graduate degree.”
Thad Bartlett, chair of the anthropology department, added, “This recognition helps to put to rest the misconception that strong researchers cannot be strong teachers. Dr. Brown is both an outstanding scholar and an excellent instructor. Her approach forefronts practical skills—including critical thinking skills—which will serve students as they enter the job market.”
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