As we speed past midterms for Fall semester 2017, I thought I would share a reflection regarding how I’m applying the Mater Teacher Program (MTP) competency-based professional development model of KNOW, DO, SHARE to my own teaching.
KNOW: At the beginning of the semester, I asked myself: How can I increase student engagement in my College 101 course? This question aligns well with the Kirkwood faculty competency #4, instructional strategies: faculty can integrate instructional strategies that encourage students’ development of critical thinking, problem solving and performance skills. I felt like I needed a refresher on what quality engagement looks like, and found this Faculty Focus article to guide my thinking.
Do: I have tried to weave in more discussion regarding current events and to align class activities with the General Education course outcome “students will think logically and critically.” I know that this is an area of growth for me. There is a large unit on critical thinking and time already spent on logical fallacies in College 101, but I wanted to take it to the next level in the form of debates.
A topic that has been buzzing in the media recently has been the actions of NFL players during the playing of the national anthem. After time spent reviewing some current events, basic tenets of the the First Amendment, and few seminal cases – both on their own and as a group – the questions up for debate were:
- Does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect only freedom of speech, or does it also protect freedom of expression?
- Some people have suggested that the National Football League should implement a policy mandating players to stand during the Anthem. Even though private organizations have the ability to implement these rules, should professional sports leagues require players to stand during the national anthem?
So how did it go? What was the effect on student learning? Initially I was worried that I might “lose control of the class” but I was happily surprised to find that everyone was able to communicate their ideas appropriately. I was also surprised that many students were eager to discuss this topic and were aware of free agent Colin Kaepernick and other topics related to the issues. They were excited, engaged, and some talked about current events related to the First Amendment days after the activity was over. They also connected on a different level with their classmates – one that could not be achieved with an abstract activity on logical fallacies.
I also think the success of this activity was due in part to the fact the we have a set of classroom norms that were established early on. Before the first debate, we revisited these norms as a class.
Next steps: Debating current events has proven to be a great activity that I am weaving into the entire semester. The media certainly affords us no shortage of content! I also plan to conduct a poll so that students can generate the topics up for debate. In this way, I am giving students the power to co-create the class experience with me.
SHARE: I am sharing this reflection with others so that I can chronicle my own growth and to inspire other faculty to share what they are doing with others.