C122: Interpersonal Communication

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Interpersonal Communication class with three elements: a simple model of ..... interpretive theories in the book and the observations they make in the field. Often.

 

C122:  Interpersonal  Communication   Course  Portfolio,  2009-­‐10  Teagle  Collegium  on  Inquiry  in  Action     Mack  Hagood,  Associate  Instructor   Indiana  University  

ABSTRACT   This  portfolio  documents  the  rationale,  implementation,  and  outcomes  of  teaching  innovations   developed  during  a  fellowship  year  with  the  Teagle  Collegium  on  Inquiry  in  Action.    The   project’s  fundamental  premise  is  that  ethnography  can  function  as  a  signature  pedagogy  to   develop  critical  thinking  and  flexible  knowledge  in  students  possessing  no  prior  ethnographic   experience.  Seeking  to  address  common  difficulties  in  ethnographic  training  and  make   ethnographic  practice  more  central  to  students’  classroom  experience,  I  augment  an   Interpersonal  Communication  class  with  three  elements:  a  simple  model  of  ethnographic   analysis,  in-­‐class  practice  opportunities  designed  to  simulate  fieldwork  experience,  and  an  end-­‐ of-­‐semester  review/assessment  activity.    

  Table  of  Contents   Course  Background.................................................................................................................3   Ethnography  as  a  Signature  Pedagogy .............................................................................3   Objective .....................................................................................................................................4   Implementation .......................................................................................................................5   The  Model............................................................................................................................................ 5   Practice  Journal................................................................................................................................. 7   Semester-­End  Assessment  Activity...........................................................................................11   Data ........................................................................................................................................... 13   Assessing  Exercises  and  Student  Work  During  the  Semester .........................................13   Findings.................................................................................................................................... 14   Revisiting  Anticipated  Benefits .................................................................................................15   Future  Improvements ...................................................................................................................16   Works  Cited ............................................................................................................................ 17    

Table  of  Figures     Figure  1.  Slide  showing  model  of  ethnographic  analysis. ..........................................6   Figure  2.  Slide  showing  example  of  ethnographic  analysis.......................................6   Figure  3.  Notes  on  a  scene  from  Pulp  Fiction  in  a  student's  practice  journal. .....8   Figure  4.  Practice  journal  activity  in  which  students  apply  theories  to  videos..9   Figure  5.  A  student's  journal  response  to  the  cues  in  fig.  4. ................................... 10   Figure  6.  Connection  brainstorm  worksheet. ............................................................. 12   Figure  7.  Students  are  asked  to  assess  the  brainstorm  activity  and  practice   journals. .......................................................................................................................... 12  

 

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Course  Background  

  C122  Interpersonal  Communication  is  an  introductory-­‐level  course  offered  by   Indiana  University’s  Department  of  Communication  and  Culture.  In  contrast  to  the   prescriptive,  practical  orientation  of  many  interpersonal  communication  courses,   the  focus  in  C122  is  on  “denaturalizing”  communication  to  better  understand  its   cultural  underpinnings.  Reading  key  texts  in  fields  such  as  cultural  anthropology   and  performance  studies  while  doing  ethnographic  research  among  their  university   peers,  students  learn  how  communication  and  culture  constitute  one  another.  As   ethnographers,  students  practice  “reading”  communication  for  cultural   assumptions,  performative  aspects,  power  structures,  gender  dynamics,  and  other   features.     C122  is  a  multiple-­‐section  course,  taught  by  graduate  students  to  a  wide  variety  of   non-­‐CMCL  majors  in  groups  of  24.  Instructors  all  use  the  same  book,  follow  a   prepared  syllabus,  and  are  encouraged  by  the  course  supervisor  to  promote  an   interactive,  participatory  class  structure,  but  are  otherwise  free  to  plan  class  time  as   they  wish.  Instructors  frequently  use  multimedia  examples  to  illustrate  course   concepts  and  stimulate  discussion,  sharing  these  resources  with  fellow  instructors   on  a  website.  Fifty  percent  of  students’  final  grade  depends  on  their  completion  of   an  ethnographic  portfolio  consisting  of  a  proposal,  two  sets  of  fieldnotes,  field   recordings,  and  conversation  transcripts,  and  a  5-­‐7  page  ethnography.    

Ethnography  as  a  Signature  Pedagogy  

  My  philosophy  of  teaching  is  guided  in  spirit  by  the  praxis  of  Paulo  Freire  and  in   practice  by  my  training  in  ethnographic  methods.  I  believe  that  student  ethnography   is  praxis  as  Freire  defines  it:  “reflection  and  action  upon  the  world  in  order  to   transform  it,”  something  that  emerges  through  dialogue  rather  than  the  deposit  of   information  into  students’  heads  (2000:36).  Contemporary  ethnographers  read   critical  theory  from  a  wide  variety  of  disciplines  and  then  leave  their  offices  to  bring   theory  into  dialogue  with  their  observations  “in  the  field,”  a  process  they  can  share   with  their  students  as  a  signature  pedagogy.    Through  the  praxis  of  ethnography,   students  actively  engage  their  world,  paying  closer  attention  to  social  dynamics,  and   reflecting  critically  upon  everyday  communication  and  its  cultural  context.       An  ethnographic  pedagogy  is  Frierian  praxis  in  that  it  breaks  through  the   boundaries  of  the  classroom  and  is  inherently  dialogic,  encouraging  dialogue   between  text  and  student,  student  and  teacher,  student  and  student,  student  and   world,  and  text  and  world.  As  a  signature  pedagogy,  ethnography  encourages   students  to  think  and  act  like  experts  (Gurung  et  al,  2009:3),  transforming  their  own  

 

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world  by  seeing  it  through  a  new  critical  lens.  Finally,  ethnography  encourages  the   “flexible  transfer  of  knowledge”  (Bransford  et  al,  2004:64),  as  students  apply   classroom  ideas  in  diverse  “real  world”  contexts,  gaining  a  deeper  understanding  of   key  concepts  than  they  otherwise  might.  

Objective     My  objective  during  the  2009-­‐10  Teagle  fellowship  year  was  to  address  the  concrete   difficulties  of  ethnographic  training  and  to  make  the  practice  of  ethnography  more   central  to  my  students’  classroom  experience.  Although  C122  is  often  taught  by   graduate  students  with  ethnographic  backgrounds,  and  basic  concepts  are  included   in  the  textbook’s  “Ethnographer’s  Toolkit,”  students’  final  projects  frequently  reflect   a  lack  of  practical  knowledge—particularly  of  how  to  use  critical  theory  to  interpret   field  experiences.  C122  instructors  teach  critical  theory  and  assign  a  fieldwork   project  in  which  students  are  expected  to  show  how  the  data  they  collect  “support   or  complicate  the  theoretical  arguments  found  in  the  readings.”  However,  none  of   the  course  materials  explain  the  process  through  which  ethnographers  connect   theory  and  data,  probably  because  such  analysis  is  a  “fundamental  ability”  that   ethnographers  take  for  granted.     Using  ethnographic  practice  as  a  signature  pedagogy  required  rethinking  the  role  of   critical  analysis.  Rather  than  something  implicit  that  students  “just  do,”  the  critical   interpretation  of  data  needed  to  become  the  central  practice  that  students  learn  to   do  in  class.    With  this  in  mind,  I  assembled  a  simple  model  of  ethnographic  analysis,   a  structure  for  classroom  practice  opportunities,  and  a  means  for  assessing   students’  analytical  development  in  class.  More  generally,  I  made  sure  that  all   discussions  of  specific  theories  frequently  referred  to  their  applicability  in  the   fieldwork  project.         I  anticipated  three  key  benefits  to  these  changes:     1. Repeated  practice  of  applying  critical  theory  learned  in  class  would   lead  to  better  retention  and  “flexible  knowledge.”   2. In-­‐class  practice  would  better  prepare  students  for  the  unfamiliar   practice  of  ethnographic  research—specifically,  the  analysis  of   observations,  recordings,  and  transcriptions.   3. The  repeated  classroom  practice  of  critically  examining  everyday   cultural  artifacts  (see  below)  would  make  students  better  critical   thinkers  and  readers  of  cultural  texts,  while  also  demonstrating  to   students  the  utility  of  critical  thinking  in  everyday  experience.    

 

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Implementation  

  C122  is,  at  bottom,  a  class  about  interpersonal  communication,  not  the  practice  of   fieldwork;  therefore,  I  needed  to  find  ways  of  developing  students’  practical   ethnographic  skills  without  taking  time  away  from  learning  communication  theory.   This  will  be  the  case  whenever  ethnographic  practice  is  used  as  a  form  of   pedagogy—the  development  of  practical  skill  must  be  aligned  with  the  development   of  knowledge.  Because  this  was  not  a  fieldwork  class,  spending  a  large  amount  of   class  time  on  fieldtrips  was  neither  desirable  nor  necessary.  Instead,  I  found  ways   for  students  to  practice  the  kind  of  data  analysis  one  might  do  on  returning  from  the   field.  The  plan  I  implemented  centered  on  providing  a  model  for  ethnographic   analysis,  providing  practice  opportunities  in  class,  and  providing  a  semester-­‐end   opportunity  for  teacher  and  student  assessment.    

The  Model     By  the  end  of  my  first  year  of  teaching  C122,  I  had  come  to  realize  that  most   students  do  not  “naturally”  know  how  to  make  connections  between  the   interpretive  theories  in  the  book  and  the  observations  they  make  in  the  field.  Often   students’  ethnographies  present  observations  that  accord  with  factual  claims  made   by  the  book’s  authors,  but  don’t  rise  to  the  level  of  engaging  the  authors’  theoretical   claims.  Ironically,  this  sometimes  serves  to  reinforce  the  very  stereotypes  we  seek   to  complicate  or  negate.  For  example,  a  student  ethnographer  may  observe  “gossip”   or  “relationship  talk”  among  women  in  the  field  and  write,  “This  is  just  how  Maltz   and  Borker  say  women  talk,”  leaving  aside  these  scholars’  theory,  which  provides   cultural  (not  biological)  reasons  for  difference  in  male  and  female  speech  styles.   Because  the  student  didn’t  know  how  to  bring  theory  to  bear  on  data,  she  reinforces   rather  than  denaturalizes  a  cultural  stereotype.       Beginning  in  the  fall  of  2009,  my  third  semester  of  teaching  C122,  I  began  centering   the  course  around  a  model  of  critical  analysis.  In  order  to  help  students  connect   theory  to  observation,  I  created  a  PowerPoint  slide  that  illustrates  the  difference   between  theoretical  and  factual  claims,  as  well  as  how  to  connect  abstract  theory   and  concrete  observations  (fig.  1).     In  this  model,  a  theory  is  abstract,  generalizable,  and  explanatory  of  concrete   phenomena,  while  points  of  data  are  simply  things  heard  or  observed  “on  the   ground.”  What  connects  theory  and  data  are  patterns,  for  example  the  factual  claim   that  women  tend  to  use  language  more  frequently  to  establish  relationships,  while   men  use  it  more  frequently  for  self-­‐display.  As  a  pattern,  this  factual  claim  does  not   rise  to  the  level  of  a  theory,  but  can  be  used  to  connect  a  group  of  field  observations   to  a  cultural  theory,  such  as  Maltz  and  Borker’s  claim  that  these  differences  in   speech  arise  from  boys  and  girls  playing  separately  in  what  are  essentially  different   socio-­‐linguistic  subcultures  (fig  2).      

 

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Figure  1.  Slide  showing  model  of  ethnographic  analysis.  

 

   

Figure  2.  Slide  showing  example  of  ethnographic  analysis.  

     

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Though  this  model  of  ethnographic  analysis  is  admittedly  limited  in  some  ways,  I   used  it  in  class  as  a  simple,  memorable,  repeatable  model  of  doing  critical  analysis  to   help  students  bring  theories  from  the  book  into  dialogue  with  their  everyday   worlds.  After  introducing  “connecting  data  to  theory”  at  the  beginning  of  the   semester,  I  brought  it  back  repeatedly,  particularly  as  students  began  their   fieldwork  assignments.  Assignments  were  framed  in  terms  of  the  number  and   quality  of  “connections”  expected.  These  connections  are  intended  to  focus  students   on  finding  cultural  reasons  for  the  communicative  practices  they  observe,  thus   denaturalizing  differences  they  might  otherwise  take  for  granted.    

Practice  Journal     In  the  spring  of  2010,  I  retained  the  model  of  ethnographic  analysis  as  a  centerpiece   of  the  course  and  added  a  new  element,  the  practice  journal.  The  purpose  of  the   practice  journal  was  to  formally  facilitate  classroom  activities  that  would  develop   ethnographic  skills.  At  the  same  time,  I  hoped  that  the  physical  presence  of  the   journal  would  encourage  a  sort  of  meta-­‐awareness  that  we  were  engaged  in  the   practice  of  developing  our  ethnographic  skills,  as  in,  “Take  out  your  practice   journals  so  that  we  can  practice  applying  this  theory  to  a  real-­‐world  example.”  We   used  the  practice  journal  in  roughly  half  of  our  class  meetings,  often  towards  the   end  of  class,  after  a  short  lecture  and  group  discussion.  There  were  two  main  types   of  activities  that  involved  journaling:  developing  skills  in  observation,  description,   and  transcription,  and  practicing  critical  analysis.       Observation,  Description,  and  Transcription.  Roughly  a  third  of  journaling  was   dedicated  to  developing  the  basic  ethnographic  skills  discussed  in  the   Ethnographer’s  toolkit.  Students  practiced  basic  tricks  of  the  ethnographic  trade   such  as  doing  jottings,  the  “thick”  description  of  people,  settings,  and  events,  and  the   transcription  of  field  recordings.  In  keeping  with  common  practice  among  C122   instructors,  I  played  videos  and  audio  recordings  for  students  to  describe  or   transcribe  (fig.  3).  My  only  deviation  from  standard  practice  in  teaching  these  basic   skills  was  taking  the  students  out  for  one  fieldtrip.  Once  the  students  had  some  in-­‐ class  practice  of  describing  video  events,  we  spent  one  class  period  in  the  Indiana   Memorial  Union.  There,  students  did  individual  observation  of  people  in  the   building,  doing  jottings  in  the  practice  journal,  before  meeting  as  a  group  to  discuss   the  successes  and  challenges  of  the  day’s  activities.    

 

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Figure  3.  Notes  on  a  scene  from  Pulp  Fiction  in  a  student's  practice  journal.  

     

 

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Critical  Analysis.  Two  thirds  of  the  students’  journaling  was  practicing  the   application  of  theory  to  data,  usually  video,  audio,  or  still  images  from  popular   culture.  It  is  common  for  C122  instructors  to  use  such  resources  as  illustrations  of   the  theories  taught  in  class  and  as  discussion  starters.  My  innovation  was  to  frame   the  use  of  multimedia  as  an  occasion  for  the  practice  of  critical  analysis  of  the  sort   they  would  do  in  their  own  ethnographies.  I  emphasized  the  analogous  relationship   between  cultural  texts  such  as  film  clips  and  the  everyday  speech  students  recorded   in  the  field,  explaining  that  connecting  theory  to  a  video  in  the  practice  journal   would  prepare  them  to  write  their  ethnographies.       For  example,  towards  the  end  of  a  class  on  the  concepts  of  metapragmatics  and   participant  structure,  I  presented  a  slide  with  two  videos  of  performance  events  (fig.   4).  After  taking  jottings  on  the  videos  of  a  drum  circle  in  a  park  and  a  musical   theater  performance,  students  analyzed  the  differences  between  these  musical   events  in  terms  of  metapragamatics  and  participant  structure  (fig  5).  Class   concluded  with  a  group  discussion  of  students’  analysis.        

Figure  4.  Practice  journal  activity  in  which  students  apply  theories  to  videos.    

 

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Figure  5.  A  student's  journal  response  to  the  cues  in  fig.  4.    

 

 

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Semester-­‐End  Assessment  Activity     At  the  end  of  the  semester,  we  spent  a  full  class  on  a  “Connection  Brainstorm”   session,  in  which  five  groups  of  students  were  each  given  a  different  video  to   analyze,  making  as  many  connections  to  the  book  as  they  could  come  up  with.   Students  were  encouraged  to  use  book,  class  notes,  syllabus,  and  practice  journal  to   jog  their  memories.  For  each  connection  the  student  made,  s/he  was  expected  to   mark  whether  this  was  a  connection  to  fact  (i.e.,  a  pattern  of  the  sort  shown  in  the   second  tier  of  the  analysis  model)  or  a  theoretical  connection,  offering  a  brief   explanation  of  the  connection  (fig.  6).  After  brainstorming  connections  individually   and  writing  them  down  on  the  supplied  worksheet,  students  discussed  their  ideas   within  their  groups  before  finally  presenting  their  video  and  analysis  to  the  rest  of   the  class.       As  this  activity  occurred  a  week  before  students’  final  ethnographies  were  due,  it   provided  a  wide-­‐ranging  review  of  class  theories  and  their  applications,  one  that   harnessed  the  “wisdom  of  the  crowd.”  I  emphasized  this  point  frequently  during  the   group  presentations,  encouraging  students  to  consider  how  theories  raised  might   connect  to  their  own  data.  Perhaps  more  importantly,  this  activity  allowed  for   several  types  of  assessment.  From  my  point  of  view,  it  allowed  me  to  assess  the   number,  depth,  and  variety  of  theoretical  and  factual  connections  students  were   capable  of  making.  From  the  student  perspective,  the  brainstorm  provided  an   opportunity  to  look  back  on  the  core  concepts  of  the  course,  evaluating  their   applicability  to  the  everyday  activities  of  film  and  television  watching.  At  the  end  of   class,  I  asked  the  students  to  assess  the  usefulness  of  both  the  brainstorm  session   and  the  practice  journal  (Fig.  7).      

 

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Figure  6.  Connection  brainstorm  worksheet.  

 

 

Figure  7.  Students  are  asked  to  assess  the  brainstorm  activity  and  practice  journals.  

 

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Data  

  The  design  of  this  project  generated  a  substantial  amount  of  data,  including  the   practice  journals  (which  include  student  work  from  15  in-­‐class  assignments),  the   connection  brainstorm  worksheets,  and  the  end-­‐of-­‐semester  student  assessments   just  mentioned.  Group  discussions  after  the  practice  journal  exercises  and  the  group   field  outing  provided  me  with  opportunities  to  gauge  student  information  retention,   skill  development,  and  interest.  Finally,  the  completed  ethnography  portfolios,   which  account  for  50  percent  of  the  C122  grade,  could  be  assessed  for  changes  in   quality.       Due  to  the  subjectivity  of  grading  ethnographies  and  the  qualitative  nature  of   ethnographic  research,  I  determined  that  grade  comparisons  or  rigorous   quantitative  analyses  of  the  data  would  likely  be  neither  valid  nor  helpful  to  my   future  teaching.  However,  the  large  quantity  of  qualitative  data  allows  me  to  assess   individual  student  development,  the  usefulness  of  individual  journal  exercises,  and   the  cumulative  efficacy  of  the  implemented  course  changes.  The  latter  will  be   addressed  below  in  “Findings,”  but  I  would  like  to  first  return  to  one  of  the  previous   examples  to  show  its  utility  in  assessment  during  the  semester.    

Assessing  Exercises  and  Student  Work  During  the  Semester     The  practice  journal  exercise  shown  in  figure  4  was  designed  as  an  opportunity  for   students  to  apply  the  analytical  concepts  of  metapragmatics  and  participant   structure  in  simulated  field  settings.  Reading  student  responses  allowed  me  to   assess  the  both  the  value  of  the  exercise  and  individual  students’  progress.    Figure  5   shows  the  work  of  one  student,  which  I  would  assess  as  average  in  quality.  The   response  reflects  a  basic  understanding  of  ethnographic  practice  and  of   metapragmatics  as  the  “unwritten  rules”  of  communicative  participation.  For   example,  under  the  heading  “Drum  Circle,”  the  student  did  some  jottings  on  the   participants  in  the  video  and  their  activities.    Although  I  had  instructed  the  students   to  pretend  they  were  ethnographers  at  the  field  site,  I  did  not  specifically  ask  for   jottings.  The  student’s  response  indicates  her  knowledge  that  jottings  are  an   expected  ethnographic  practice.       There  are,  however,  limitations  in  the  student’s  analysis  that  provide  openings  for   intervention.  The  content  of  the  jottings  shows  that  she  is  still  struggling  to   denaturalize  her  own  cultural  biases,  as  when  she  describes  the  drum  circle   participants,  as  “dirty-­‐looking  people.”  For  the  instructor,  this  is  a  moment  of   pedagogical  opportunity,  in  which  the  professional  practices  of  ethnographic   description  and  analysis  are  in  alignment  with  course’s  goals  of  undermining   cultural  stereotypes  and  assumptions.  Questions  to  raise  with  this  student  therefore   include:  What  is  it  that  makes  the  participants  “dirty-­‐looking”?  What  cultural   assumptions  about  clothing,  hairstyles,  and  demeanor  are  you  projecting  onto  the  

 

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subjects  of  your  ethnography?  Are  there  ways  you  could  describe  rather  than  judge   their  appearance?  Are  they  part  of  a  subculture  with  different  “rules”  of  appearance   from  yours?  What  might  the  underlying  social  business  of  those  rules  be?  What  is   the  underlying  social  business  of  your  style  rules?     In  her  analysis  of  participant  structure  in  the  drum  circle  event,  the  student  writes   that  “there  seemed  to  be  no  rules  at  all,”  though  she  acknowledges  in  the  next   sentence  that  there  was  “a  common  rhythm.”  This  is  a  moment  to  encourage  the   student  to  deepen  her  analysis.  Productive  questions  here  might  include:  Is  rhythm   (and  music  in  general)  a  form  of  communication  with  rules?  What  would  happen  if   someone  played  out  of  time  and  very  loudly?  Are  there  any  types  of  instruments   that  might  not  be  welcome  here?  Are  there  unspoken  genre  expectations?  For   example,  what  if  someone  started  playing  a  synthesizer  or  singing  a  military  fight   song?  What  are  the  rules  of  being  a  “no  rules”  drum  circle  participant  and  what  is   the  social  business  of  those  rules?     In  our  group  discussions  after  this  exercise,  many  such  questions  were  raised  and   debated,  giving  me  insight  into  the  level  of  student  understanding.  I  found  the   exercise  to  be  a  success,  particularly  because  it  opened  up  a  discussion  of  the  ways   that  participants’  experience  of  freedom  and  play  is  undergirded  by  underlying   structure  and  rules  of  participation—not  only  in  the  “structured”  musical  theater,   but  also  in  the  “no  rules”  drum  circle.  The  activity  and  ensuing  discussion  fostered   student  engagement,  ethnographic  skills  development,  and  critical  analysis  in  ways   that  a  lecture  would  not  have.     There  is,  however,  one  serious  limitation  in  the  way  the  practice  journal  was   implemented  in  this  and  other  in-­‐class  exercises.  Because  of  the  logistical  issues  of   collecting  and  reading  48  notebooks,  I  collected  them  for  analysis  only  twice—once   at  the  midterm  and  once  at  the  end  of  the  semester.  This  had  definite  implications   for  the  feedback  I  could  provide.  Less  outspoken  students,  some  of  whom   mentioned  their  appreciation  of  the  journals  as  an  alternate  form  of  self-­‐expression   in  class,  got  little  feedback  on  their  ideas.  Also,  more  controversial  views  were   sometimes  expressed  in  the  journal  but  not  aloud.  Since  the  discussion  about   metapragmatic  and  participatory  rules  was  relatively  uncontroversial,  for  example,   it  was  readily  voiced  in  class.  The  “dirty-­‐looking  people”  comment,  however,  was   not  raised  in  class,  so  I  missed  the  opportunity  to  raise  the  critical  questions   suggested  above.  By  the  time  I  read  the  “dirty-­‐looking  people”  comment,  the   semester  was  over.  

Findings     Reflecting  on  the  course  changes  I  implemented  in  C122,  I  find  that  centering  on   ethnographic  practice  provided  increased  focus  for  both  instructor  and  student,   providing  countless  “meta  moments”  in  which  we  reflected  on  what  we  doing  in  

 

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class  and  considered  how  we  could  relate  it  back  to  the  practice  of  ethnography.   Repeatedly  asking,  “How  would  you  use  this  theory  in  your  fieldwork?”  seemed  to   give  the  class  increased  sense  of  purpose.  Based  on  student  comments  and   journaling,  I  perceived  an  increased  understanding  of  what  we  were  doing  and  why,   and  decreased  confusion  over  what  was  expected  in  fieldnotes  assignments  and  the   final  ethnography.  I  found  that  the  model  of  ethnographic  analysis  helped  me  in   teaching,  defining  expectations,  and  grading  papers  as,  more  than  before,  I  knew   what  to  expect  of  myself  and  my  students.  Explicitly  framing  class  activities— including  writing  assignments—as  the  practice  of  connecting  theory  to  observation   gave  the  class  increased  clarity  and  momentum.    

Revisiting  Anticipated  Benefits       I  outlined  three  main  anticipated  benefits  at  the  start  of  this  portfolio.  The  first   anticipated  benefit,  that  repeated  application  of  interpretive  theories  would  lead  to   better  retention  and  “flexible  knowledge,”  was  supported  by  the  evidence  in  the   practice  journals.  Through  the  written  exercises,  students  were  consistently  able  to   apply  theories  in  contexts  different  from  those  found  in  the  book.  This  was   illustrated  in  the  example  of  the  student  finding  metapragmatic  expectations  and   participant  structure  in  the  drum  circle  video,  while  also  retaining  the  ethnographic   practice  of  jottings  she  learned  over  a  month  earlier.  The  connection  brainstorm,  in   which  students  applied  a  semester’s  worth  of  course  concepts  to  brief  videos,  also   showed  the  retention  of  flexible  knowledge.  Given  15-­‐20  minutes  to  watch  and   analyze  a  clip,  the  average  student  found  five  connections  between  theories  learned   in  class  and  the  video  they  were  assigned,  with  a  quarter  of  the  students  filling  or   exceeding  the  seven  blanks  provided  on  the  worksheet  (fig.  6).  My  students  and  I   were  surprised  by  the  number  and  quality  of  theoretical  applications  they  achieved.     My  second  expectation  was  that  in-­‐class  practice  would  better  prepare  students  for   the  unfamiliar  practice  of  ethnographic  research—specifically,  the  analysis  of   observations,  recordings,  and  transcriptions.  This  was  strongly  borne  out  in  the   quality  of  the  final  ethnographies.  Using  the  model  of  critical  analysis  as  a  guide  for   students,  I  repeatedly  stressed  that  ethnographies  must  be  centered  on  a  specific   ethnographic  claim,  an  argument  constructed  by  connecting  ethnographic  data  to   critical  theory.  While  the  overall  quality  of  writing  was  still  uneven  for  many  of  my   students,  only  one  fifth  submitted  a  paper  without  a  thesis  and  none  of  them  cited   the  book  entirely  in  facile  ways  that  failed  to  engage  theory.  By  clarifying   expectations  and  honing  skills,  the  practice-­‐based  class  resulted  in  better   ethnographies,  in  turn  causing  me  to  raise  my  standards  in  grading  student  work.     Finally,  I  expected  that  repeatedly  and  critically  examining  everyday  cultural   artifacts  would  make  students  better  critical  thinkers  and  readers  of  cultural  texts,   while  also  demonstrating  to  students  the  utility  of  critical  thinking  in  everyday   experience.  Though  my  students  came  to  C122  as  neophytes  to  ethnography,  they   began  the  class  with  varying  levels  of  media  literacy,  making  progress  harder  to    

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gauge.  However,  students’  success  in  the  connection  brainstorm  activity  indicates  an   ability  to  read  texts  through  critical  lenses  with  which  they  were  not  previously   familiar.  Another  source  of  data  is  the  reflection  tool  I  administered  after  the   brainstorm,  which  asked  students  to  comment  on  the  activity.    Comments  indicate   that  students  unanimously  enjoyed  the  brainstorm  activity  and  found  it  useful  as  a   refresher  on  theories,  a  practice  opportunity,  and  demonstration  that,  as  one   student  put  it  “these  theories  come  up  in  everyday  life.”    Another  summarized  a   common  sentiment:  “The  most  valuable  thing  that  I  learned  is  that  I  can  analyze   what  I  see  from  very  many  perspectives  and  connect  it  with  many  theories  in  our   book.”      

Future  Improvements     The  second  question  in  the  reflection  tool  asked  students  whether  the  practice   journal  added  to  their  learning  experience  (fig.  7).  The  answers  to  this  question   were  mixed,  with  roughly  two  thirds  finding  the  journal  helpful  and  one  third   unsure  or  finding  it  unhelpful.  Students  who  liked  journaling  said  it  provided   opportunities  to  reflect,  focus  on  core  concepts,  develop  and  apply  skills,   understand  muddy  points,  retain  information,  express  ideas  without  talking  in  class,   and  “get  easy  points”  (as  students  received  credit  simply  for  using  and  turning  in  the   journals).  The  most  common  criticisms  of  journaling  from  those  who  found  it   unhelpful  were  that  the  journal  was  not  used  outside  of  class  and/or  was  not  helpful   in  studying  for  exams,  and  that  the  in-­‐class  assignments  felt  like  busy  work.   Somewhat  ironically,  some  students  complained  that  we  did  not  use  the  journal   enough  in  class.       What  I  find  most  interesting  about  the  student  responses  to  the  practice  journal  is   that,  for  the  most  part,  those  who  found  it  helpful  seemed  to  perceive  its  purpose  to   be  roughly  what  I  had  intended—an  opportunity  to  develop  skills  and  learn   concepts  through  practice.  On  the  other  hand,  the  comments  of  those  who  did  not   find  the  journal  helpful  mainly  reflected  expectations  that  differed  from  my  own— use  outside  of  class  time  or  utility  in  exam  study.  The  one  exception  to  this  is  the  two   students  who  said  the  journal  was  not  helpful  because  it  was  not  used  enough;  in   fact,  some  students  who  liked  journaling  also  suggested  that  the  journal  was  not   used  enough  in  class.     This  feedback  prompts  several  ideas  about  continuing  ethnographic  pedagogy.  First,   I  plan  to  create  more  exercises  to  further  integrate  ethnographic  practice  into  the   class.  Next,  while  there  seems  to  be  good  evidence  that  the  practice  journal  activities   are  helpful,  the  journal  itself  may  not  be.  If  I  am  unable  to  frequently  supply  written   feedback  on  journals  in  a  class  already  known  for  its  heavy  grading  load,  it  may  be   sufficient  to  let  students  do  practice  activities  in  their  regular  notebooks.  On  the   other  hand,  without  the  motivating  belief  that  their  instructor  will  read  their  work,   some  students  may  not  take  the  exercises  as  seriously.  Not  giving  journal  feedback   also  puts  less  outspoken  students  who  express  themselves  through  the  journal  at  a    

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disadvantage.  Another  possibility  is  to  try  to  better  align  students’  expectations  with   my  own,  explaining  from  the  outset  that  this  journal  will  be  used  only  in  class,  for   the  purpose  of  developing  analytical  and  ethnographic  skills,  and  not  as  a  study   guide.  But  perhaps  the  best  way  to  align  student  and  instructor  goals,  while  making   a  stronger  commitment  to  a  pedagogy  of  ethnographic  praxis,  would  be  to  eliminate   the  course  exams,  allocating  these  points  instead  to  a  graded  practice  journal.    

Works  Cited     Bransford,  JD,  AL  Brown,  and  RR  Cocking.  2000.  How  people  learn.  Washington,  DC:   National  Academy  Press.   Freire,  Paulo.  2000.  Pedagogy  of  the  oppressed.  30th  anniversary  ed.  New  York:   Continuum.   Garung,  R,  N  Chick,  and  A  Haynie.  2008.  Exploring  signature  pedagogies:  Approaches   to  teaching  disciplinary  habits  of  mind.  Sterling,  VA:  Stylus.   Monaghan,  LF,  L  Monaghan,  and  JE  Goodman.  2007.  A  cultural  approach  to   interpersonal  communication:  essential  readings.  Malden,  MA:  Wiley-­‐ Blackwell.  

 

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