Several instructors describe clever approaches to developing students’ desire to learn, conduct research
You won’t find any students yawning in Theatre Appreciation or Latin American Civilization and Culture classes at UW-La Crosse. They are too engaged in writing and directing plays and recording mock TV interviews with Latin American icons.
Several UWL course instructors over the past year have found clever ways to engage students in experiential learning with Course Embedded Undergraduate Research grants through UWL’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Grants for this year are due Monday, June 19. Details can be found on the CATL website.
Students in Assistant Professor Katherine Grillo’s African Archaeology course in fall semester 2014 and 2016 were the first from UWL to participate in the Wikipedia Education Program, the Wikimedia Foundation’s global initiative designed to increase student contributions to Wikipedia’s encyclopedic content. Students created new articles and expanded and corrected others about important sites, topics, and scholars in African archaeology. Those articles from fall 2016 have now been viewed more than 125,000 times since the course began.
“Students gained vital experience in scouring the primary archaeological literature on their chosen topics — given that they couldn’t simply turn to Wikipedia,” says Grillo. “And they also gained valuable insight into the problems with much of Wikipedia’s existing content.”
Years later, one former student is now an intern responsible for managing a company’s Wikipedia pages. She writes, “So, even though my internship is definitely not in African Archaeology, the class really helped me a few years down the line.”
Theatre appreciation … and participation
In Megan Morey’s Theatre Appreciation, students were given roles from playwright to actor for the creation of their own 7-10 minute plays. During the process, students were able to revisit themes from lecture while learning “soft skills” such as communication, collaboration, time management, problem solving, and critical and creative thinking, says the assistant professor of Theatre Arts.
“I believe that one of the greatest benefits of working on a theatrical production, no matter how small, is that the process itself is a fantastic model for any situation where individuals have to work together to achieve a common goal,” says Morey.
Students developed the plays based on current issues and controversial topics of their choosing, such as gender identity, gun control and assisted suicide. Morey used class time early in the semester to engage students with these topics through small group discussion which was then further supported by individual research using credible internet sources.
“The spring semester quickly became my favorite semester of teaching Theatre Appreciation in my time at UWL,” she says.
Late night TV in a UWL class
Students in “Perspectives: Latin American Civilization and Culture” recorded late night TV interviews with an important historical or cultural figure from Latin America. Although they were mock interviews involving UWL students playing the roles, the project challenged intermediate-level Spanish speakers to hone their research skills while polishing interpersonal and presentation skills in a cross-cultural context, says Rose Brougham, assistant professor of Modern Languages.
In pairs, students researched a particular icon’s major contributions to the region’s culture. Students explained the figure’s cultural perspective, synthesized this information, and presented it in a recorded interview. By using the North American cultural context of late night TV, students had to analyze the format of the North American cultural practice of TV programming, and then to respond to inserting the Latin American icon into this context. The activity promoted students’ cross-cultural understanding and the ability to create and respond appropriately to the situation.