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Students review theoretical positions

Subject: History. Course: Studium Generale (teaching by student teachers). Study level: BA. Size of class: 25 to 30.

Motivation for the activity

The purpose of the activity is for the students to explore tangible, active and fun methods they can use to acquire a better understanding of the many different and difficult scientific theoretical positions they should get to know in the subject studium generale.

Brief facts about the course

The course provides the students with knowledge about different types of historical, empirical and theoretical work and skills in assessing and interpreting sources. Moreover, the course focuses on ensuring that the students learn to assess the applicability of different theoretical and methodical approaches on concrete issues and to give arguments in a consistent and well-founded manner.

The objectives of the activity

The aim is that students learn to distinguish between different scientific theoretical positions and to assess the applicability of these positions. It is an essential objective of the activity that the students understand both the scientific theoretical position they must assess and the position they themselves represent. Moreover, the students practice collaboration, presentation and peer feedback.

Description of the activity

The exercise lasts 2x45 minutes, and the students must use a flip-over or magic paper. They are divided into groups of four to five (for instance existing study groups), and each group is given:

  1. a scientific theoretical position to speak from (e.g. Positivism)
  2. a scientific theoretical position to review (e.g. Marxism)
  3. a peer group that they must give feedback to.

Part 1: Discussion of texts

The texts are taken from the syllabus, and the students are therefore expected to have read these carefully in preparation of both the lecture and the student teacher session. To complete the task, the group must understand both the texts on Positivism and the selected text on Marxism. In the group work, members of the group must discuss the texts to align their understanding of the two positions; otherwise they will not be able to speak from one position about the other. This means that the students are forced to describe the two positions in their own words, which strengthens their understanding.

Part 2: A fun, creative and slightly silly exercise

Each group is given a flip-over or a magic paper. They must then draw or review one of the texts – for instance using star ratings or writing short sentences or making drawings that illustrate their assessment of the reviewed text. It will be fine if the exercise is fun, creative and slightly silly. Part 2 takes approx. 45 minutes, but the time may be adjusted depending on the level of complexity of the texts.

When the groups have completed their posters, they team up in class, and the groups present their results to each other. Each group explains how they used the first position as a basis for reviewing the text from the other position. The appointed feedback group starts by commenting, and the other groups may contribute if there is time for this. The feedback group may receive feedback guidelines to ensure that they, as a minimum, mention the academic content of the presentation, the communication of this, and the feedback group’s understanding of the academic content. In general, the teacher only needs to answer specific questions or correct factual misunderstandings, but otherwise let the students give the feedback.

Outcome of the activity

This review format is slightly silly and therefore quite harmless, which ensures a safe and pleasant atmosphere for the presentations. This turns group presentations of difficult texts into fun presentations of the scientific theoretical positions. The students are introduced to all positions through the group presentations and get to know two positions particularly well through their own presentation.

The exercise is also a concrete group activity in which the group members must collaborate to ensure that everyone understands the academic content of the syllabus texts. The harmless formate also makes peer feedback more harmless and creates a safe atmosphere in which to practice this essential discipline.

Worth considering

Some students may find this type of hands-on activities silly. It is therefore necessary to explain why it is helpful to work creatively with the source material and to mention the didactic potentials of the activity. It is also necessary to make sure that positions are combined in a sensible way. It is not decisive if a combination results in a positive or negative review, but it is important that the positions are somehow comparable, or the exercise will be too arbitrary.

Activities

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    Examples of practice