Reflections From the “Flipped” Frontline: Enhancing Student Learning in an Interdisciplinary Course on Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control: Allen Sens (University of British Columbia), Matt Yedlin (University of British Columbia), Jason Myers (University of British Columbia) Abstract: In what ways does the “flipped” classroom enhance student learning in interdisciplinary courses? Our paper contributes to the growing literature on the effectiveness of the “flipped” classroom as a means of enhancing the student learning experience and achieving course learning outcomes, with a special emphasis on the effectiveness of the “flipped” classroom in an interdisciplinary course setting. Our course is a third-year course on the political and scientific dimensions of nuclear weapons and arms control offered at UBC since 2014, developed with support from the UBC Flexible Learning Initiative and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna. It enrols fifty Political Science and fifty Applied Science students, and is team taught by a professor in Political Science and a Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the literature, “flipped,” “blended,” and “flexible” course design models are credited with facilitating deeper student learning through online instructional resources paired with active participation lesson planning to create a more engaging and deeper understanding of subject matter. Our paper describes how our course employs a fully “flipped” pedagogy, with learning materials (mostly in the form of bespoke instructional videos) based online and class time devoted to learning activities conducted within and among permanent student groups. To assess the student experience in the course, we conducted surveys of the students enrolled in our course. The survey results suggest the “flipped” model is successful in enhancing the student experience in an interdisciplinary course setting and has a positive impact on course learning outcomes.
Using Wikipedia in Class Assignments : Students’ Motivation and Information Literacy: Frédérick Bastien (Université de Montréal) Abstract: Digital technologies create a challenge for teachers who must entertain students’ motivation. The development of information literacy also becomes an important issue in highly connected societies, as citizens access to a wide range of (more and less reliable) information. Over the past two years, students in an undergraduate class of introduction to political communication at Université de Montréal were assigned to edit a Wikipedia page. They were required to select one Wikipedia article about a political or communication subject, to identify its limitations, then to research, draft and put online their contribution, so they improve the quality of the article. This paper begins with a review of some published studies on Wikipedia assignments in social science, as well as an overview of the resources available to instructors who desire to implement such activities, including those crafted by the Wiki Education Foundation. Then, the paper describes the assignment designed for freshmen in political communication. On the basis of a survey fielded in two classrooms where this activity was assigned, it presents findings regarding students’ motivation and the development of information literacy (assessing the quality of sources, writing neutrally, balancing viewpoints, etc.). As many citizens – and scholars – use online sources to get information, this paper argues that such assignments are effective to increase citizens’ information literacy and are a better way to assess the challenges of the digital era than banning their use.
Teaching Aspiring Legislators: Gerald Baier (University of British Columbia), Maxwell Cameron (University of British Columbia) Abstract: For six years, the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at UBC has held a Summer Institute for Future Legislators. The paper will describe the details of the program and draw some conclusions about the utility of such a school and our teaching model and invite ways to expand the reach of the project. Our participants convene for two educational weekends and one full weekend simulation in the BC Legislature. The educational sessions are a mix of presentations and exercises led by our instructional crew and an all-star roster of experienced Canadian legislators. Each year we focus on two or three discrete policy areas that challenge participants to learn in-depth about issues, but also require them to take positions likely not to be their own. The need to balance party concerns, individual representative concerns and institutional constraints are all played out by our participants. Our experience of delivering this program has led us to several insights. First, that practical, experiential learning is tremendously valuable for a better understanding of political institutions and their operation. Second, that guided and active reflection on simulations is tremendously important to those same pedagogical goals and to creating better public representatives. Third, our participants are a valuable set of subjects for understanding attitudes toward participation, partisanship, institutional constraints and human nature. We are only beginning to mine that resource. Finally, the cohort of aspiring legislators is diverse and principled and bodes well for the future of Canadian democracy.