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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH49015: Advanced Studies in Human Reproductive Ecology

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the field of human reproductive ecology which situates reproductive function within an evolutionary framework
  • To give students a background in reproductive physiology
  • To give students an appreciation of how various environmental factors influence reproductive function
  • To introduce students to various methods used by biological anthropologists to assess human reproductive function


  • The course will introduce students to various aspects of human reproductive physiology and the range of variability that might be expected in different environments. It will discuss ecological influences that affect reproductive function in males and females including aspects like nutrition, physical exercise, disease loads and psychological stress. It will discuss field and laboratory methods for the analyses of reproductive function. Finally, it will discuss how reproductive variability might be expected to impact fertility and even the experience of ageing.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should acquire a knowledge of human reproductive physiology.
  • Students should understand how evolutionary and life history theory is applied to reproductive function in humans
  • Students should understand how a cross-cultural perspective can be informative about the range of variability in human reproductive function
  • Students should appreciate the kinds of fieldwork methods that can be used by anthropologists for the study of reproductive function
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Application of evolutionary concepts to understanding human reproduction
  • Ability to link human reproductive ecology to clinical studies of human reproductive function
  • Analyse the sources and kinds of problems that can affect human reproductive function
Key Skills:
  • Writing: Students should be able to present written summaries of data and theoretical perspectives and argue for a particular perspective using research-based evidence
  • Communication: Students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely on theoretical and practical topics and explain why particular issues are important and / or controversial

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will introduce students to key issues for discussion and analyses
  • Seminars will give students the opportunity for discussion of relevant academic topics in human reproductive ecology as well as guide them to further areas for reading. They will be used to expand on specific themes relevant to human reproductive ecology and to discuss methodological issues in the analyses of human reproductive function.
  • Advanced discussion classes will allow students to develop their skills of critical thinking and evaluation, as well as how to synthesise and interrogate material at a level commensurate with postgraduate attainment.
  • Formative and summative exercises will be used to consolidate students’ ability to explain and articulate various problems in the field of reproductive ecology
  • A Summative report will allow students to explore a particular topic in further detail, to demonstrate their acquired knowledge in reproductive ecology and to argue for a particular theoretical position
  • Summative quizzes will test students’ knowledge of key aspects of reproductive physiology
  • The summative critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report 2500 words 60%
Class quizzes 10 minutes duration 20%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

Outline draft of the Report. Written comments on report and outline draft that will help to improve the summative version. Practise quiz in class. Reading log sample.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University