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Author: Dr. Emily Stacey of Rose State College
All of my courses have a current events discussion, from American Federal Government (POLS1113) to Introduction to Comparative Political Systems(POLS2803). It allows me to engage students in their world beyond the immediate news sources that are state- or local-heavy. These news sources tend to be more focused on national politics and news than international news.
On the first day of each semester, my expectation is that every student attends each class meeting (if in person) or posts once a week online (if online). Each student must bring a current event to discuss. While I enjoy focusing on the political, students know that this discussion is driven primarily by them. As long as it’s not entertainment news, I’ll have a conversation about it. This includes sports, which can sometimes be very political.
These discussions help students understand concepts in the course content and place them in a real-world context. This makes political concepts more accessible and relevant for students.
Needless to mention, the current events discussion–which I call mine “What is the World?” My favorite part of class is the Current Events section. I get to learn more about my students and also stir them to information they may not be aware of.
These are some useful tips to have meaningful discussions about current events, regardless of whether you are delivering your course online or in person.
Set the standard from day one.
The concept is presented to students the first day of class. Students-driven current events discussions take up the first 15-20 minutes of each class period. Students report on the news and discuss it with me, their professor.
I attach current events discussions to the overall participation grade. Extra-credit questions are also featured on exams that are derived directly from current events.
You should be prepared to fill in the gaps.
You will be able to engage in meaningful learning experiences and tie current events to course material if you are well-versed on the news of the day. You’ll be ready to help students fill in the gaps.
You don’t want students to just read your headlines. You must read the news and understand what it means and why it is important.
Offer safe spaces for all.
Facilitating civil dialogue among my students, who are very diverse in their age, race, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation, is an important part of political science education.
On the first day of class, I make an open statement that states that the professor/class will not tolerate hate or prejudice. In this course, all opinions that are fact-based and valid will be accepted.
Students who have just graduated high school can use this exercise to become adults. They may be used to speaking their mind without a monologue. All opinions are heard and analyzed in current events discussions, and the class as a whole.
Encourage conversation.
If students aren’t following the latest news or there’s a lull in conversations, stimulate (and direct!) the conversation. Give a brief overview of the issues/events and then give it to students for them to discuss.
This is what I do most on Mondays or Tuesdays when students return to class for the first week.
Each week, I post an event in my online courses to start the discussion thread. This event is broken down for students. I also provide background information and links to related articles. Students are required to include references in their posts. This allows them to know that I am just as interested as them and gives them news/information they might not be consuming.
Each week I will post online a mix of state, national, and international news. This keeps students involved in politics at all levels and gives them a better understanding of current events.
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By Delilah