pedagogy

Action Research: a class competition

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.

Action Research

  • 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

Core Idea:

  • 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. 
  • Which of these plans did you like the best? Why?

Introduction to Latin American Studies, an online syllabus

Global Perspectives: Latin America

I’ve shared a copy of a syllabus for an online “Introduction to Latin American Studies” class before, and somebody recently wrote on Twitter how much they appreciated that. I think that I had posted that syllabus in 2014, and I’ve changed the syllabus significantly since then. Here is the syllabus that I’ll be using when I teach the class this fall. Of course, many of the videos that I am using (and other resources) are only accessible from my library, so you’ll have to see what resources are available at your own institution’s library. But I hope that this may give you some ideas.

I am making this syllabus freely available for anyone to take, adapt or use. In this era of COVID-19, I know that many people are struggling to put classes online, so I hope that this resource may help someone.

Shawn Smallman, 2020

Online teaching and excellence

Image of a globe on a light, McGill University. Photo by Smallman

I’ve been teaching online for several years now, and it’s become not only the only way I teach, but also the impetus for some of my research. For me, moving my teaching online led me to change my pedagogy. I have become an advocate of both Universal Design and the Negotiated Syllabus, which not only create more inclusive classes, but also engage students in their own learning. I began to use Turnitin not so much to catch plagiarism, but as a tool for students to learn how to paraphrase and cite correctly. It also became one part of a lengthy process of peer review that I now use to teach students that by adopting an iterative process they can transform their writing. I’ve also revamped my assignments so that they develop particular skills, such as the ability to locate, manipulate, and interpret data. When I look at my syllabi now, they are far different than they were a decade ago. Even though I had more than once won teaching awards for my face to face teaching. I think that my online classes are better than their face to face (F2F) predecessors. …

Infographics in the classroom

A guest blog by Dr. Kimberley Brown:

Active learning for many faculty in International/global studies has meant simulations.  Alternatively, faculty could also vary teaching methods and assignments to meet the needs of a broad-base of students by using the principles of Universal Design for Learning. This post focuses on an infographic assignment substituted for a final paper in a section of a new online undergraduate course I taught last winter called “Human Rights and Language.”

Infographics are “a larger graphic design that combines data visualizations, illustrations, texts and images together in a format that tells a complete story” (Krum, 2014, 6). The basic assignment asked students to:

“Peruse our course topics.  Select one of the topics as the foundation for your infographic.  Your infographic will describe a linguistic human rights problem, the population affected by the problem, and solutions.  You will include a map of the area(s) where the problem you have identified occurs. Your goal is to disseminate information about the issue you have researched to diverse audiences. Your infographic should demonstrate a clear understanding of the issue you present and integrate course concepts and terminology.”

I was encouraged to adapt this assignment for my course after a group of colleagues in Community and Public Health (Shanks, Izumi, Sun, Martin and Shanks, 2017) successfully assigned this to their students. You can see their article, “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics” here. The adaptation was quite extensive and it took many hours of collaboration with our Office of Academic Innovation to get it right. You can see the full directions for the assignment here.

I was anxious but with coaching broke the assignment into weekly parts including references, field testing, revision and reflection. Virtually no one in class had done an infographic before. I prepared written instructions as well as a screencast. Students had access to examples of Infographics. They were encouraged to use either Canva or Piktochart.  Both had tutorials. The results were highly creative. Only one student suggested that the assignment was better suited to a marketing course. Others noted that they had been pushed in unanticipated ways but could use this skill going forward. Four of the infographics are shared here with the permission of their authors. They all convey data very differently.

I adapted a grading rubric from a variety of rubrics for infographics accessed online.

If you would like more information about the assignment, please email me: brownk@pdx.edu

Please see examples of the infographics below:

Infographic on gendered languages by Madison Cheek

The Norway Infographic by Paige Nef

The Sierra Leone Infographic– Gaia Oyarzun

The Ainu Infographic–anonymous.

The full reference to our colleagues’ outstanding on article on infographics is:

Shanks, J., Izumi, B., Sun, C., Martin, A., & Byker Shanks, C. 2017. Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, 315.

For another key reference see: Krum, R. 2014. Cool Infographics. Indianapolis: John Wiley and Sons.

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