Abstract: This article explains how a data visualization assignment can aid students in developing research skills in an online course created in partnership between a faculty and an academic ux designer. This resource is particularly relevant as faculty move curriculum online to meet demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will describe the process by which the assignment was first designed and revised, and then share our assignment guidelines, video, rubrics, student quotes and examples of this assignment, which other faculty are free to use
I recently interviewed Prof. Marylynn Steckley about her experience researching food in Haiti for my podcast Dispatch 7. One experience that she talked about was being a mother in the field, and what it was like to give birth, to deal with inequality, and to address race while raising children. She also discussed how she had to deal emotionally with the fact that not only was she getting sick, but also her family was. I’ve long thought that one of the topics that we often avoid in International and Global Studies is personal health. If you go into the field in a relatively poor country for an extended period you are going to get sick. But graduate students are seldom warned of this, much less prepared for it, either practically or emotionally. Personally, I think that every graduate student leaving for a developing country should listen to the stories of someone like Dr. Steckley.
Although Marylynn works at Carleton University in Canada now, she was also my colleague for a year at Portland State University in the United States. During that year students flocked to her classes, in part because she had the ability to discuss complex and difficult issues with honesty and passion. In the interview she talked about her experience teaching a class on “Global Craft,” as an online course in experiential learning. In the course she brought together crafts people from around the world to talk about their expertise. Of course, most students at a public institution cannot pay many thousands of dollars for a carefully curated program abroad. As we also discuss in the podcast, some students have children, or disabilities, that limit their ability to travel abroad. But students can have an international experience that is still meaningful by learning from people in other countries. By the end of the interview I was envious that I hadn’t been able to take part in the class. Except for the Finnish showers. Hard no.
This month I am sharing some of my syllabi, assignments, rubrics, and class lectures for my “Introduction to Global Studies Theory” class, which in my department was called “Foundations of Global Studies.” In my face to face and hybrid class alike I liked to use small group work during class. Of all these assignments, none was more popular with my students than this competition. I would frame the competition with a brief lecture (5-10 minutes) on action research. Then I would break the class into small groups, and have each group present their groups’ proposal for an action research project.
I want to briefly discuss action research
A field that dates back to the 1930s, and has roots in education, as well as anthropology, health and women’s studies
Action based research blurs the lines between scholar and subject, because the people studied become part of the research process
One of the goals is to empower them
The approach hopes that people in the community studied will better understand their problems at the end of the process
In that sense, an emancipatory theory, that aims to free people to think critically about their world
Sounds abstract: let me give you a concrete example
Work mapping in Arctic communities: includes members of the communities
Map rolled out on the floor: elder note sacred sites, burial grounds, trap lines, the movement of animals
Creates a product for their use
The goal is not to be a dispassionate observer
It is to produce something of use to the community
The focus is on practical outcomes related to the actual lives of the people studied
The theorizing tends to be small scale and often has the goal of creating positive social change
One of the goals is to democratize knowledge production and use
Very different perspective than the behavioralist ideal of the dispassionate observer off to the side
Instead, the action researcher is a facilitator, who brings the community together
This is a collaborative approach to research
Designed to be accessible and understood by the very people that it studies, so as to empower them
At the core is the idea of action
Knowledge is not created solely for its own value
Instead, it is designed to be used
This school draws heavily in theoretical writing in education, in particular the work of Paulo Freire
The hope is that not only will the research prove useful, but also that people will develop the skills to study their own problems and be empowered.
For this reason, action research is designed to take into account the communities’ culture, emotional lives, and other influences
The researcher is a participant in the process of learning with the community
The research is then shared with the community
This is very important in action research
Research that is not shared has no value
There is a clear social or political value to research in this perspective
It hopes to create research to help solve a particular problem
Very attractive in fields such as public health that work with communities
Challenges older constructs of the social sciences
Small Group Work, Action Research:
Break into groups of four or five people. Appoint one person to be the action researcher. It is this person’s job to interview the group to learn what the key concerns facing university students are at our institution. Then with the group, this person is to come up with an action research plan that could be used to further study these problems. Remember: you have to include the community in your plan for research process. We’re going to report out on the findings from each of the groups, and the class is going to judge if these sound like good plans for action research.
Kim and I have completed the third edition of our textbook. After nearly three years of work, the first copy showed up in my mailbox last week. With this rewrite we didn’t just update references, but rather rework the text entirely. For example, Kim created a new organization for the exercises in our work to ensure greater consistency. We created new case studies, such as one in the health chapter that looks at Indigenous health in Australia’s outback and Canada’s Nunavut. And we gave particular attention to the rise of nationalism and populism globally, as well as to profound changes in our energy systems.
When it came to the Instructor Resources, we similarly wanted to rework our text. What’s been important is that we’re able to build on what we’ve seen about which resources are used, as well as the feedback from our peers. For example, one of the most popular resources has been a list of films that are appropriate to use in an intro class. We’ve worked with our colleagues and our students to update that list from scratch. We’re currently reworking sample essay questions. We have a new introduction, our published paper that talks about universal design for learning. And we have a new assignments section, which includes rubrics that I’ve been using in the class myself for many years. In short, it’s a comprehensive set of resources, which will make it easy to step into this class for the first time, or to adopt a new set of tools. All these materials will be available before the end of August, which is also when the book will also be released for purchase.
Two weeks ago I was supposed to be giving this paper in Hawaii. But I pulled out of the conference in early March, and then the International Studies Association conference itself was cancelled shortly thereafter. As I write these words China, the United States, Canada and most of Europe are moving courses online, in perhaps the greatest pedagogical shift in global history. In this climate, I wanted to share the paper’s content quickly. This paper was never intended to become an article. Instead, it is a practitioner’s paper, and is intended to support people who are moving their course work online.
In essence, this paper examines how a Negotiated Syllabus can create engagement in the online classroom. This paper is primarily directed towards asynchronous classes (which don’t have a defined class-time) rather than streaming lectures. As you can see in the acknowledgements at the end, I particularly want to thank the Instructional Designers at the Office of Academic Innovation at PSU, who helped me to reshape my classes over the last several years. To everyone struggling to adapt to remote teaching, thank you for how you are addressing this immense societal challenge in the midst of a pandemic, in order to best serve your students.
The Negotiated Syllabus: how to create community in online International Studies classes
Saturday, March 28th, 4:15pm
Tapa 1, Tapa Tower, Hilton Hawaiian Village
International Studies Association Conference
March 2020, Hawaii
*cancelled due to COVID-19
Shawn Smallman, Portland State University
At the same time that institutions with rich online offerings experience rapid growth (Southern New Hampshire University; Oregon State University), many faculty in the United States continue to hold negative attitudes towards online classes. In particular, they are concerned that faculty will not come to know their students, that the classes lack rigor, and that students will lack a sense of engagement both with their peers and with the class material. Critics of online learning, such as Power & Morven-Gould (2011, abstract) suggest that online teaching is associated with student isolation and withdrawal. There is a common theme that runs through these concerns, and that is engagement; that is, faculty who exclusively have experience with face to face classes often believe that the students will lack a learning community, so that they will fail to engage not only with the faculty member, but also with each other, in a way that will allow students to successfully achieve the course learning outcomes.
The reality is that online classes have many advantages for creating student engagement. Because the discussion board is often the core of an online class, faculty get to know all of their students, not only the ones who are comfortable speaking in class. Students who are introverts may be more comfortable sharing ideas in an online format, and they have often engaged deeply with the course material. Students also have the ability to join the discussion at the moment that they are best prepared. Finally, the online class can make it easier to structure peer review and group activities without the limitations posed by a class period. Still, one additional pedagogical tool can build on all of these advantages, and create a rich set of opportunities for faculty to connect their students.
This paper will argue that classes can achieve a high level of engagement -including a sense that the class constitutes a learning community- through the Negotiated Syllabus and Universal Design, which will include such elements as co-constructed curriculum, a capstone project that is shared with the entire class, peer-review as a community building tool, and a carefully constructed discussion board. This will be a practitioner-focused paper, which will be based on student discussion comments, teaching evaluations, student reflections, grade data and faculty journaling from seven online courses that have been repeatedly offered over the last six years. The goal is to give other faculty the tools necessary to foster student engagement in their own online International and Global Studies classes. …