Structured Academic Controversy: A Variant

by Harry on January 11, 2023

A grad student advisee of mine who had previously been a high school teacher introduced me to the Structured Academic Controversy when I observed her teaching a class for future secondary social studies teachers. I’d never seen it used before in class, and have to come to find a variant of it — but not the actual variant she used — a very useful strategy in quite specific conditions. Here’s roughly how she did it:

Students were given a controversial proposition. They were divided into groups of 4, and each of those groups was further divided into pairs.

Within each group one pair received materials favoring the proposition; the other pair receives materials opposing it. Students read material and discussed the most salient points of the argument to present.

Students presented their argument. Each pair had three minutes to present their ideas. After 3-minute presentations, each pair had a minute to rebut.

Then they swapped sides. So the favoring pair now had the opposing materials, and vice versa, and they went through the whole process again.

Then students reported back to the whole class.

The way the exercise is described above assumes that the students have not done any prior relevant reading or research. And its purpose when used in high school is really to get students to see all sides of the issue, and internalize the reasons that are given in the supporting and opposing material. It worked pretty well when my graduate student did it in my class, partly because we hadn’t, in fact, assigned material pertaining directly to the proposition that we were asking them to consider. But when I tried it s a couple more times it didn’t work so well.

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Film Review: The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 11, 2023

One of the challenges critics of our contemporary form of capitalism face, is how to make the analysis of that beast clear to a broad audience. Let’s face it, most academic books on the topic are hard to understand. Moreover, many people hardly ever read a non-fiction book about politics, let alone the economy. Film is in this respect a great medium, since it is easier to digest than reading a book. And often a picture says more than a thousand words.

Some years ago, I was teaching ‘ethics of capitalism’ to an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate students. Many of them had never had any economics, and since any third-year student could take this course, I had students in that class from all over the university – history, philosophy, economics, geography, anthropology, sociology – even a student from theoretical physics. In the last week of the course, we zoomed in on the financial crisis, and I was worried how to teach such complex material. So, in addition to giving a lecture, I also organised a screening and discussion of Inside Job, and that worked very well. The film was pretty effective to further process the dry material from the lecture, and put all of it into a broader perspective. [click to continue…]