Pol Soc in the Covid Classroom

So… I was asked by PASTAI (the Politics and Society Teachers’ Association of Ireland) to do a short presentation at the upcoming National Conference about adapting the (otherwise very expansive and progressive) methodologies we normally use for a more restricted Pol Soc classroom in the times of Covid-19. So I’ll be gathering my thoughts in the coming weeks so as not to actively embarrass myself in front of people I only get the chance to interact with on twitter these days. Hopefully I’ll not end up sounding like a Luddite, or wasting people’s time…

One of the areas that I’ve found myself relying on these days is more dependence on ‘direct instruction’ (not necessarily a bad thing) and a greater emphasis on ‘guided reading’ (which I think I’ll definitely be doing more of in the future – see the picture below for more on guided reading – from Simon Beale @spbeale on twitter). I need to do more research on reading on the best way to present that material, but I’ll stick with what I have until I figure out a better way to do it. (I now know that I should really narrow my margins to make more room for both note taking and guidance, but that’s something you can do for yourself… I use my TLDR sheets for that process)

The problem with both of these things is finding appropriate resources that are tailored to the classroom. While “Pol Soc Twitter” is a vibrant and inclusive community, where relevant articles and ideas are circulated in a spirit of generosity, the problem remains that those articles aren’t necessarily ‘classroom ready’, and take quite a bit of time to adapt, edit, and develop questions that students will find useful. This is particularly the case because in previous years you could fairly reliably just ‘talk the students through’ the article and do oral feedback on their responses (either as individuals or from a group discussion). But now that many students (and teachers) are necessarily absent because of waiting for a Covid test result in their family, or because they are being suitably cautious with minor symptoms, the students need to be able to work through some of the materials at home under their own steam in a more tightly ‘scaffolded’ manner.

So, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is put together old style ‘comprehension’ texts with questions that are accessible and will prepare students for the kind of questions they will encounter when they go to the full DBQ-style questions (particularly as an intro to this process for new 5th year students). So here are a few of those comprehensions that I’ve developed for that purpose. With the usual caveat that they’re just my best effort, they might help students to engage with the key thinkers in a modern context. I’ll include them as PDFs that are ready to go for a class and MS Word files that you can adapt for your own needs. (Some of them might be a bit long for an exam context, for example…) I’ll add more as I go, but will also archive them on the Data-Based Question page. Let me know if the links don’t work, as I don’t have a great track record with that!

I’d say the basic principle behind all of this is that I’d rather have a good resource (80-85%) that’s pretty much ready to go than an amazing one (95-100%) that’ll take me an hour to adapt and format. Who has that kind of time during Covid-19!!!!

MS Word Version: https://polsocpodcast.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/hobbes-leviathan-johnson-covid-19-article.docx

MS Word Version: https://polsocpodcast.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/john-locke-covid-19-article-nbc-news-july-2020.docx

MS Word Version: https://polsocpodcast.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/rand-paul-september-11-article-wapo.docx

MS Word Version: https://polsocpodcast.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/lynch-class-and-wealth-in-education-article-30th-sept-2020.docx

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