Learning as if schools did not matter, but gender & racial subordination was always to be challenged

Through a Rapid PBL activity (2 hours) students and instructors in a graduate course created their own ‘briefings’ “to help you and others when you teach learn and get support to move in the direction of more feminist pedagogy, especially around science.” Here is mine (which I now want to rethink so its has a clearer grounding in feminism). Read more of this post

The impact of problem-based learning in interdisciplinary graduate studies: Some thought-provoking appreciations II

The potential impact of problem-based learning (PBL) in interdisciplinary graduate studies is indicated by these statements written as part of the student evaluations of the 2011 offering of a PBL course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology” [GRST].  The statements are included here not primarily to boast about the course but rather to stimulate thinking about what might aim to be doing when we teach graduate students. (See also 2009 statements.)

• The GRST course provides an entry into the complexities of science and technology as they interact with society (in the context of gender, race, class, etc.) while immersing and introducing students in the PBL pedagogical framework. The course provides a supportive environment in which to identify personal strengths and weaknesses and develop personally and professionally. It also stimulates interest, development of projects, and multidisciplinary exploration and collaboration, taking all participants as equals with something valuable to contribute. Build-in feedback mechanisms and dialogue processes provide a means for tremendous support and opening intellectual avenues while allowing all voices to be heard.
• For someone who wants a break from lectures and wants real collaborative feedback, this course is great. It wasn’t always clear how “structured” or “free-style” the professors envisioned students’ projects or comments to be, but overall this was a great course where I leaned a lot about the process of research and what it means to research the barriers surrounding scientific knowledge based on race, gender, class, expertise, etc. It‘s also a great opportunity to think critically about the intersections between scholarship and activism.
• The opportunity to engage: 1. With students from a variety of disciplines; 2. With material outside of my own discipline; 3. In ways not explicitly encouraged by my discipline. All this allowed me to broaden my horizons, but in regards to my relationship with my own discipline and in regards to my perspectives about race and gender.
• This course is about learning how to learn. It allowed me to take my personal interests and connections to each individual case and develop my own line of inquiry. If I got stuck, someone was there to help me. Particularly for someone who has novice knowledge of STS, this course provided a safe space for me to ask questions and develop my won thoughts about how I interact with STS.
• This course is a gift – the chance to be open – open-ended in design, open to process, open to other perspectives, open to changing your ideas, and open to sharing. Of course this means it’s risky too – you won’t always know when you’re coming from or where you are going – you might think you aren’t sufficiently grounded by the course. But you have the freedom to change that – and being on the other side of it now, I see it works out beautifully. The attention to process provides you the tools to grow and by the end you’re riding the wave of your earlier work – just choose an area of science and/or feminist/anti-racist criticism and run with it.
• I learned so much from this course. It allowed me to build projects and presentations based on my own interests, which eventually led to a topic I will likely write my Master’s Thesis on. One of the strong points of this class is that it really helps you articulate what you’re interested in, if you don’t already know. I also liked the group dynamic. All the students respected and supported each other, and had so much to offer to one another. I’m a fairly shy person, but I usually felt comfortable in this class. And, Peter and Sally are wonderful, helpful people. One thing I think should be stated more clearly to students before they take this class is that it is a PBL class and that it will be very different from their other courses. It requires A LOT of work, not a whole lot of structure, and many presentations. They should be comfortable with these aspects before committing to take this course.
• This course has provided me with the opportunity to become a critical thinker, which is a life skill. I believe strongly that this course has not only made me a better academic investigator, but a stronger contributor to classroom discussions. In addition, I have gained the opportunity about how to use other disciplines in my research.
• This course is NOT a traditional course and students who are looking for book learning should approach with caution. With that said, everyone should take this course. I would like to hear more about the teacher’s experience and perhaps research ideas.
• This course was very enlightening in its approach. It encourages the students to take the initiative in their own development, but offers a supportive environment where the student is guided by the professors.

Work in progress presentations: a better use of audience time than presentations of the final product?

I ask my students to give presentations a little over half way through the project, believing that these are more helpful to the development of a project than presentations of the final product.  Such presentations must necessarily be on work-in-progress, and so my instructions ask them “to indicate where additional research is needed and where you think it might lead you.”   These instructions continue as follows:

When you prepare to give a presentations (e.g., by freewriting on your desired impact, designing visual aids, etc.), when you hear yourselves speak your presentations, and when you get feedback, it usually leads to self-clarification of the overall argument underlying your research and the eventual written reports. This, in turn, influences your research priorities for the time remaining.

The Work-in-Progress Presentation is your first opportunity to “GOSP” your audience—Grab the audience’s attention; Orient them to the direction of movement in your project, and lay out the Steps that will lead your audience to the Position you want them to appreciate.  Note that the P in GOSP may for a work-in-progress presentation extend to include your Plans to find out what more you need to.

In general, think of the talk less in terms of performing to the public and more in terms of getting the help you need from others to make further progress.

In that spirit, make sure you allow time to present the leading edge of your work. That means being brief on getting the listeners up to steam about the aspects of your project that are firmly in place at this stage.

If there is not time for extensive discussion, each member of the audience should write a note to the presenter to provide appreciations, suggestions, questions, contacts, and references.  (Slips of paper from each member of the audience using a plus-delta feedback format work well.)

The impact of problem-based learning in interdisciplinary graduate studies: Some thought-provoking appreciations

The potential impact of problem-based learning (PBL) in interdisciplinary graduate studies is indicated by these statements written as part of the student evaluations of a 2009 offering of a PBL course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology” [GRST].  The statements are included here not primarily to boast about the course but rather to stimulate thinking about what might aim to be doing when we teach graduate students.

• About PBL: I do think that for STS [science and technology studies], creativity is very important. PBL entitles students the right to create their own research without too much limitation. Students may become narrow minded, however how to balance lectures with PBL may be a good question to explore. About the class: I love this class. Presentations and discussion let everyone get the equal opportunity to participate in this class. We have diverse students in our classroom, and this is important to build an inclusive classroom. About the teaching: This course teaches students how to learn the learning and how to change what they know into what they are wondering.

• The course provided a space to think about issues both in an academic way and in an applied way. Critical questions about our social worlds were brought up. Opportunities to do work rather than just absorb information. The strengths of the course are that instructors really created a space for us to develop our own line of inquiry. This is a huge challenge – allowing yourself to follow important questions.

• This course was challenging, inspiring, and fulfilling in many ways. The pedagogy, diversity of students and their strengths and interests and their professors’ expertise and day-to-day support was invaluable.

• I would highly recommend GRST to any student, regardless of STS background. The self-steering nature of the course is an ideal setting for the knowledge seeking graduate student. The diversity of topics, professors, and a refreshing course made a great experience!

• I was given the space to pursue my own interests without being nervous about quality. (This allowed us to take risks!) I was introduced to research, scholars, books, materials, and ideas that I was not aware of. And this allowed me to find connections with my own innate interests. I was challenged to do better work all the time, as we were asked to do revise and resubmits. Having individualized, evolving bibliographies was the best part, and the professors worked with each of us on these throughout the week.

• Breaking apart the typical format and rhythm of most graduate learning environments is hard. Knowledge in core disciplines must be gained and “standards” of an academic profession imparted. But where is the joy and love of learning that made us all want to be students for as long as we can be? This class brings the exploration and inquiry back. It feels messy at times and frustrating and stressful, but what gets produced is amazing and deep and diverse and makes you want to know – “What’s next?” Who committed to higher learning wouldn’t want to participate in a course like this?

• During this course I have been challenged in ways that I thought were impossible, but that I had been craving in my home graduate program. People often talk about grad school being a place where you really begin to produce your own knowledge, but I had yet to do that apart from initial work I had begun (outside of classes and under no supervision) on my thesis. This class opened the door for me to be a producer and a thinker of my own knowledge that I had sought out. It has really changed me as a “student”, and I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to work with [the instructors] to do it.

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