Katie Dawson of The University of Texas at Austin lectures at Course Hero headquarters on tools for active and creative teaching, inside and outside the classroom.
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Katie Dawson: My name is Katie Dawson. I teach at UT Austin. I also hold this fractional appointment right now in innovative pedagogies at the University of South Australia. And here’s a long title for you to chew on. “Active and Creative Teaching: Tools to Create, to Critically Engage, and to Connect.” So a bunch of buzzy words there. I think I actually had to do some sort of little mapping word thing, and some of those words actually are also up there. So that felt cool, like a win. I was thinking ahead to your company, I guess.
These kinds of ideas, these buzzy ideas, I’m pointing out because in my role as a provost teaching fellow—which I’ll talk bit more about—my job is to think about how those words have meaning and get actualized, because we as faculty hear those words a lot. We’re supposed to teach creatively, and we’re supposed to make connections across the curriculum, and we’re supposed to do this and that and the other. The big thing I find, sometimes, myself thinking but certainly my colleagues thinking is, how the heck do we do that? What are the actual methods or tools to get there?
So with that in mind, I have a key guiding question for us today. [Shows slide] Which is literally, what is this thing I’m talking about? What is active and creative teaching specifically located in higher education? It is my belief—a little kind of John Dewey person in terms of education—that we learn by doing, that the best way to understand what is to actually go through the how, and maybe even a little bit of the where and when and why.
We’re going to start off with something a little disruptive, and I mean that in a good way. I’m going to actually use a strategy that is active/creative. I’m going to use this actually throughout the whole presentation, but I’m going to start out with one that’s probably one of the biggest I’m going to use. I’m going to start it out right at the top so you get a taster. It’s going to work something like this: In just a moment, I’m going to ask folks to put down their stuff, their computers, their other things that they might have with them, and when I say “Go,” I’m going to invite us to make a big standing circle. It’s kind of like returning to gym class in seventh grade, but not nearly as upsetting [laughter]. I promise you, it will not be upsetting. I really, really promise you. I’ve done this with a lot of people and no one has gotten upset.
We are going to make, in a moment, a standing circle, and I think probably just working our way through that middle to last row and around. I’m going to hope our outer Saturn folks over there, ring people, would come in too, if you’re willing. And again—I also do think this is a big thing, too—if for some reason your body’s not interested in doing this, your person is not interested in doing this, so your body can’t do this today—nothing physical, hard will need to be done, but—you can always opt out and watch on the side. That’s OK. But I offer that you will get more out of it and understand more of what I’m making sense of over the next hour if you get up and play.
Questions about that? We got that? All right, I’m going to give you like, 30 seconds to make a standing circle. So come make a standing circle with me. I think we probably need to go in right, yeah, maybe through there. [Audience members begin to form a circle.] Yep, that’s good. Oh, look. OK.
Audience member: It’s a bigger circle.
Dawson: It is. That’s OK. The circle can be as big as it needs to be. And circle is a very loose term. Oval, quadrilateral, you can name the geometry. We can pull our math people in for that one. The thing that you need to do to do this strategy … oh, I didn’t show you my picture. Oh, there’s a picture that goes with it. I like this picture.
[Points to slide] The strategy is called Thumbs. Oh, it has an odd line through it. That’s interesting. OK. It’s called Thumbs, and here’s how Thumbs works. We’re all standing in our circle, yes? So I would love everyone to find their thumb. Give me a thumbs-up. You’re like “Yes, I made it to the circle, thank you Katie, I got it.” OK. So you’re going to take that right-hand thumb, your right-hand thumb should be up. Sorry, I didn’t say that well. Sorry. Right-hand thumb. It’s also a good review of right and left. Not bad.
OK, so right-hand thumb, and that right-hand thumb’s going to move a little bit to your right, so it’s kind of in front of the person next to you. Awesome. Find that left hand. We could wave to everyone. This might be the first time you’ve seen them all day. See? That’s why a circle is really great. See those people. That hand’s going to go underneath the other person’s thumb, and then that thumb is going to turn upside down like this. All right, how are we feeling? Camera, can I keep here? Is that OK? Great.
OK, so this is the strategy. In a moment, when I say, I’m going to count down three, two, one and then, “Go.” After I say “Go,” your job is to pull your thumb up while trying to grab … Sorry, is it OK if I grab your thumb? OK. Consent is important. OK. So then you’re going to try to grab that person’s thumb that’s next to you. Does everyone understand that? So thumb goes up. Try that in your body just for a second. So what’s happening? The thumb’s going up while you’re trying to grab a thumb. OK. Everyone gets it?
Audience member: Grab it for real?
Dawson: Yeah, you’ve going to try to grab it for real. Again, this might be a point, if for some reason you’re not feeling well, you’re like, “You know, I like you, Katie, but I don’t want to be touched,” you can step out. That’s OK. But if you’re willing to possibly have someone grab your thumb, you’re OK. So do take care of yourself, and I mean that authentically. OK, so we’re going to reset. It’s after the word go. Please don’t jump ahead early. So, ready? Three, two, one …[Audience members’ thumbs are up.]
No. All right. Reset. Reset. Reset. That’s all right. After the word go. After the word go. OK, hands are flat. And here we are. Three, two, one, go. OK, reset and we’re going to try it again. We’re going to try it again. You get another chance. Another chance. Do not worry. Do not worry. All right. Ready? Three, two, one, go. [Laughter] Oh, nice.
All right, great. So we’re going to … because it’s good to give both sides equal chance, now your left thumb is up. Left thumb is thumbs-up, and that’s going to flip over. Right hand is down, and we’re going to try it the other way. So resetting. Exact same thing. Ereen, I need that hand.
Ereen: Oh, yeah, sorry.
Dawson: There you go. It’s OK. I’m not that tall. [Laughter] All right, we all understand the rules? It’s exact same thing on this side. Three, two, one … [Audience members’ thumbs are up.] Resetting. Three, two, one, go. All right, let’s try one more time. One more time. One more time. Hand down, thumbs up. Ready? Three, two, one, go. All right. Excellent. All right. So, very good.
So, stay where you are. I don’t actually care whether you caught a thumb or not. If you did, great. If you didn’t, no worries. It’s OK. OK, stay here. But my question to you is this: What is one strategy you used to try to be successful? I don’t care if you were. But what strategy did you try to actually do this activity? What’s one thing?
Audience member: Moved both my hands at the same time.
Dawson: Great. So you figured out that the gesture—the movement—was actually calm and upwards.
Audience member: I failed that.
Dawson: That’s all right. But you had a strategy that you were trying, which I love. Another idea?
Audience member: Move fast and grab.
Dawson: Yes! Stealth and speed, surprise, you get there. And the real kind of firm grab. Did you grab a thumb?
Audience member: Yes, many.
Dawson: Nice. So good to know. This also reveals a lot about personality sometimes. OK. Any other strategies that people tried?
Audience member: Focus on grabbing.
Dawson: Focus on grabbing. So, prioritizing. Excellent. Another strategy? Anything else?
Audience member: Coordination. Just having to use the two hands together.
Dawson: OK, again, so that sort of linking up, or the coordination. So I’m hearing prioritizing, linking up or coordinating, just going for it with everything you’ve got, right? These are all great strategies.
So I want to end this little moment with what we call a think-pair-share. You’re going to turn to a person next to you—if you get in a group of three, that’s fine—and I want you to talk about the following thing. If this strategy, Thumbs, was a metaphor for something that you deal with, or decisions you deal with in your daily life, what might it represent? You can think about work, you can think about life, you can think about life and work together. It’s up to you. But you’re going to have two minutes to turn to the person next to them and talk a little bit about that. Please do that.
Dawson: Take about 30 more seconds. You can keep talking.
Great, and I’d like to bring you back to me in five, four, three, two—and if I could have you wrapping up those conversations. Certainly, in other spaces with more time, I would actually give a group much more time to talk there. Sometimes I also—and I didn’t say this today, but also—if you don’t know the person next to you—hopefully you do, but if you don’t—it’s a good time to also introduce yourself. That’s a nice thing to do as well. So, yes, there we go. That’s good modeling, thank you, Alex. So let’s hear from maybe some voices we haven’t heard from yet. What’s one thing you talked about with your partner? What could this be a metaphor for?
Audience member: Tacos.
Dawson: Pardon me? Did you say tacos? Because that’s what I heard. Yes? In what way tacos?
Audience member: I’m grabbing a taco when I’m getting off a … while I’m skipping [inaudible; laughter].
Dawson: Right. So in our life … I’m going to work with that, don’t you worry. In your life, we have those things. We have the drive to eat the taco, which is a deep drive for me as an Austinite, but we have also the concerns about, oh, my gosh it’s the new year and maybe I shouldn’t be eating quite so many tacos. So the balance, the prioritizing again, for sure. Thank you. Another idea? How is this a metaphor?
Audience member: Maybe the duality, collaboration, and competition.
Audience member: Working with people is also, you’re in a little bit of a competition too, and that balance is healthy or really unhealthy.
Dawson: Yeah, and I think what I appreciate about that, too, is the visibility about that. That often times when we’re naming those spaces, OK, we’re both on a team, we’re both pitching ideas out. Admittedly one idea’s going to be chosen. I kind of wish it was my idea today; oh, maybe it’s yours today. OK, but kind of naming that out as part of the culture, as a part of when it’s kind of insidious and underneath something, which can be really hard. I really appreciate that. So when we have those dualities, when we have those pulls and tugs, how are we making that part of the dialogue of what we’re dealing with? Awesome. Another thought? Yeah.
Audience member: At least in this case, in order to succeed, somebody else has to fail.
Dawson: Yeah, which is really interesting. And what does that mean? I mean, where does that sort of sit with you? Just that observation, right? Right. Right, right, right. And also maybe they’re failing here, but succeeding on the other side, right? So there’s some interesting connections. It reminds me, too, of just how interconnected we all are. Maybe we’ll go [to] that kind of human condition grand statement about the human condition and connection.
I’ll say, when I ask teachers, in particular faculty, to do this strategy, one thing we talk a lot about, one of the metaphors that they often say besides life/work balance, which is forever a challenge for all of us as adults, is also this idea of strategic and tactical teaching. This notion—and you might also think of this in group work, too: I’m running this meeting, or I’m teaching this class, and I have an agenda. I have a strategy, I have things I need to do. I’m drilling down to do that. But these are human beings, who are not robots, who are actually answering in human ways that I might not expect, and I’m co-constructing a richer understanding because of those contributions. So I’m trying to catch those, and sometimes that means I have to abort some of this so I can get some of this, and those balances I find.
I will tell you, I’m going to run over today because I’m taking time right now to do this, and it’s really hard when a lecture is this long, and I have this I need to get through. I just own it. Let’s talk about transparency. Like, I own it, I’m going to run out of time. Y’all can dribble out and that’s fine; it won’t offend me at all. But, yeah, that’s how it goes. It’s the balance.
Thank you so much for jumping in, and you can grab a seat. We’re going to start our next thing. [Applause]
And as you’re moving back, since time is of the essence, I invite you to think—and again, with more time I would probably unpack this more with the group, but—what was that like? How did the room change from the moment before we did that strategy to right now? How are you sitting down in a different way right now? How are you feeling, maybe a little bit differently about me? Perhaps bitter that I made you do that, possibly, or maybe like, “Oh, OK, this is sort of weird and different. I’ll sit here for the hour.”
So those moments matter. How we start work with a group matters. And a lot of the work I do with faculty is helping them think about that opening hook, that anticipatory set, setting up a theme, and what does it also mean that we just co-constructed that meeting together? I didn’t put up a PowerPoint slide to tell you what the big idea of Thumbs was. You just gave it back to me in a way more rich and diverse way than I think I’ve ever had it made. So, congratulations, Course Hero. Those were some awesome synthesis ideas that you came up with.
[Shows next slide] The work I do, this strategy, is one part of about a hundred strategies that I use is through a program called Drama for Schools. I am trained in theater, drama. I was an actor for years, and I’m really interested in what happens in the arts. So I talk about my work as arts-based. And I do professional learning for K through 16 educators all around the globe. And the focus of my work is around looking at the culture of learning and spaces. So I’m just really interested in what’s happening with all of us in the room. How we feel about being there, whether we see ourselves in the work that’s being discussed or not. What does that mean? How does that affect my engagement? And I think those questions are pretty rich, particularly right now in higher education as we’re thinking so much more about equity, inclusion, and diversity, and how we’re just trying, you know—it’s a business, right? I do get a lot of that kind of neoliberal agenda from my university—for lack of a better phrase, “butts in seats matter,” and you want to get those folks in your room, and you want them to show up. What makes us want to show up?
So that’s some of what we’re going to be thinking about today. And the practices I use to do this work I call drama-based pedagogy. There are four key elements that I like to think about. You might think about these as a connection to some of what we just did with Thumbs. The first is the body.
[Shows next slide] I disrupted this space. I made us get up. I could have told you about Thumbs and not made you do it. Would you have had a different understanding of it now that I made you go through it together? What does it mean for us to go through it as a group? I’m also interested in this notion of a community of learners. We all came from very different spaces. In a smaller group I would have had you introduce yourself. That’s actually usually really important to me. I can’t do it in this big group, but I can start off with a shared experience. And again, whether you liked it or didn’t like it, whether you made this meaning or that meaning, doesn’t matter as much as that we now all have a shared thing that we all just did that I’m now going to use to help explain these ideas.
So that importance of creating a community of experience. How can students sit in a classroom and feel like it’s a team if you’re a sports person, or an ensemble if you’re an arts person? You’re the part of the orchestra that all needs to play together, or you’re part of that play that’s telling that story. How could a classroom—particularly a university classroom, which is well-known for sitting in large, dark auditoriums, being filled up by a speaker—how can we disrupt that so that I care as much about the next person’s learning as I do my own? Interesting question.
Those things are both about active learning, and that is at the heart of what I do, but I’m also an arts person, so this is like the special sauce, value-added bit. I believe so deeply that if we are going to innovate, if we are going to change and make this world a better place—this is like hard-core twenty-first-century learning stuff here—we have to be able to imagine a different possibility. I pull a lot from Lev Vygotsky, who’s an educational theorist, and others who really suggest that imagination is something that we need to teach and nurture.
We certainly have those skills. We are creative, and I do think we’re born creative folks, but that kind of key to imagination and creativity does need to be fostered through systems and methods that we can help support. We need to include that in our teaching and learning practices to teach to that twenty-first-century kind of innovation environment, which I’m sure is at the heart of this company, or actually, I know is at the heart of this company.
Then the last bit, which I think is a really interesting one, gets back to who we are as human beings. Since the dawn of time, we’ve sat around fires and told our story and danced it and sang and maybe drew some cool pictures on the walls. That’s how we make meaning of who we are with one another, is through story and through narrative. So what’s the story of your brand? What’s the story that you want people to be able to capture about themselves on your website? How am I going to connect with you through story?
A lot of the work I do, particularly with folks in the sciences, for example, is about “What’s the story here? How do you tell your research practice in a story?” Because we do make meaning through that method. So what I find is, working through the arts allows us to reengage with story. And again, if we’re going to ed theory, Jerome Bruner, others in the educational theory world, would say that learning how to analyze and synthesize and sequence story and construct logic and arguments is something we practice and learn. It is something we need to get better at.
[Shows next slide] So, the special thing though—I want to do all of this stuff, but I think all of it is predicated under a big idea, and that big idea I call Dialogic Meaning-Making. It is this idea not just that you and I are in discussion or you two are in discussion with one another, but that we are building upon each other’s ideas. It’s that moment when you walk into a meeting or you walk into a classroom, and you can feel the energy of innovation in the air. Someone saying something that someone’s adding this or questioning that, which builds it to that, and it’s just this scaffolding that happens where we all get a richer understanding because we were in the room at that moment.
There’s a great theorist in education who talks about collective emergence. I love that phrase. It’s this idea that this moment is never going to happen again. The fact that you’re giving up this hour to be in this room with us right now is wholly unique, and it’s going to be different that you came. So, this importance of why do I show up for class? Why do I show up for that meeting? Because it matters that I’m there. I’m going to contribute. I’m going to take something from it. How do we make those moments? How do you make those moments in a 500-person class? Well, we can’t have everyone talk, but maybe we have that think-pair-share moment that you had in the circle. I didn’t hear from all of you, but you did all get to make meaning, which hopefully helped you come to a different understanding. And then we heard out from a few folks, which I built upon. So that’s dialogic meaning-making.
Oh, and another thing I’ll say real quick about this, sorry, is also the dialogue is multimodal. So by that, I mean it’s not just you and I talking, but that we communicate through visual ways, we listen to it. I put it in the body as well. This tells me something, this tells me something. We’re always making meaning. And so also referencing within teaching and learning that dialogue doesn’t just have to be in a written form or even just in a verbal form. You think about the content on your website visually, I’m sure. So how are we making kind of a multimodal dialogic meaning-making space? That would be a great thing for Course Hero to continue to think about.
[Shows next slide] All right. So, as Alex said so beautifully and more succinctly probably than I am right now: I’ve done this in a lot of places, so those parentheticals are the number of years. [Points to board] I think the things that I like to point out on this list is that this work started for me in a tiny village in the northern interior of Alaska, where one in 12 young men didn’t make it past the age of 25, and the school district there was saying, “What do we do to get these kids connected to school, because they’re checking out literally and figuratively right now?” We went back to the kind of cultural dances, to their identity spaces, and we reworked the entire curriculum thinking through a culturally responsive approach to teaching and learning for those Alaskan Native youth. And that was really powerful work for me, and it really helped me design the whole method that I do. I like to cite those folks as people who really taught me how to do this work in a new and different way and that I have been able to bring to a lot of places. I’m working a bunch in Europe right now, Australia, and then across the US.
The thing I’m here to talk to you about today, though, is my work particularly at my university. [Shows next slide] I am a provost teaching fellow. It’s this group of about 40 of us who work across 4,000 faculty to help think about teaching and learning practices. It’s a really cool program. It’s got folks from lots of different levels. So you have your non–tenure track and your tenure track folks. And I often talk about it as: It’s a place where people are good enough teachers to know that they could be better. You know? They’ve done it enough, they feel good enough to kind of admit that they don’t know what they’re doing at times, and I think that’s a real struggle.
I’m sure you run into this with the faculty in your work. We are experts in our field, and most of the times that isn’t teaching and learning, yet we are teaching and learning. It’s a real contradiction—a tension—we face in our practice all the time. So what I love about this group is that we kind of don’t worry about that so much, and we just get in there and try to figure really cool things out across disciplines, and that part is really interesting, too.
So what I want to use the rest of my time with today, which will go faster than I want it to, is to take you through a very simple sequence that I’ve led with faculty.
[Shows next slide] I’m going to talk about this a little bit through a professional learning lens, a very simple structure that I think about when I’m teaching anyone, really. Even my single classes or when I’m designing my syllabus. I think about moving folks through a show-me. I’ve got to get your interest in; I got to give you a need-to-know. Like, I had to give you a fun thing to do at the top that was like, “OK, I want to a little more about what this thing is.” So you create that need-to-know. And then I’m going to introduce the scholarship of teaching and learning, but I’m going to do it through really an active way. I do that with faculty, so it’s not like me lecturing them about it, but I’m doing it through an activity that they can also use. And then lastly, I’m going to give us some ways to apply it to our context. All right? I did much longer things usually, and I’m going to squeeze this into about 35 minutes, but I want to give you a taster. What does it mean to set something up where you’re “show me, help me, and let me”? All right?
So here we go, and you don’t have to play as faculty, you can be yourselves, but just want you to know that I’ll be structuring this through a faculty perspective.
[Shows next slide] All right. So about three years ago, we elected a new president—or, we didn’t elect him … what I am I saying? We were appointed a new president. Those choices are made that way. I wish. This is not the political system, this is my university. That would be a whole other session. And this president, Gregory Fenvez, is a great president, and he had an inaugural speech that he gave to all the faculty. It was much longer than what you see here. [Gestures to board] That would have been a great speech if it was just that. But I particularly pull up this section because I had some really interesting conversations with colleagues afterwards about it. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to read it to you. I invite you to listen or read along, however you’d like, and in a moment I’m going to invite you to pull out a word or a phrase that resonates the most with you. You can figure out why that is, and make your own choice, but word or phrase that you resonate with. So here we go.
“The purpose of a university education should be to learn how to use … ” Oh, I can read it here. “ … knowledge and skills for developing sophisticated understanding and wisdom. To be creative, to be ethical, to communicate, and to lead. Students must be motivated for learning their entire lives, no matter where their career paths take them.”
So again, I’m going to invite you to turn to the person next to you and talk about a word or phrase that stands out to you from this paragraph. Go for it.
And if you could start to wrap up your conversation in five, in four, in three, two. Great. Thank you so much. So again, maybe some voices we haven’t heard from yet. What was a word or phrase that stood out to you?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: Sophisticated understanding.
Dawson: Ah, and why did that stick out to you?
Audience member: Because it seems to differentiate itself from a surface knowledge of understanding that might be one- or two-dimensional.
Audience member: It seems like approaching an issue from multiple perspectives and really pushing it through. And I think that’s really important because, as I was saying to Chris here, knowing that you know something is much better than not knowing that you don’t know something.
Dawson: Yeah. Absolutely. And you make me think a lot about questions we talk about a lot in the academy, of like depth and breadth. We think about what’s the difference between … as someone who teaches sometimes first-year courses for students who are fresh out of our public schooling system, which has taught them to regurgitate one thing for a test and not think critically about it. So, what does it mean to get to sophisticated understanding when that’s been your mindset up to that point? How are we making a big shift when we get to college and university? So, that’s great. Maybe one or two more ideas? What else stuck out to folks?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: Ethical.
Dawson: Ethical. Why ethical?
Audience member: Because I’m on the compliance team.
Dawson: Yes. Tie it to yourself.
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: And also because of there is, in association with the university campus, there is some degree of distrust between students and faculty and the institution in general. A lot of these institutions have been seeking [inaudible].
Dawson: For sure.
Audience member: But there has been an increasing trend for universities to focus on ethical teaching and making sure that students graduate knowing that they have a social responsibility now to share what they’ve learned and do the right thing.
Dawson: Thank you. Yeah, and it is. You’re getting at these big complications, and we talk about it all the time. What are we really teaching? Kids can go and search a term or an idea or a concept. Education has changed so much. You can find information so easily now. So it’s those larger, more complex, or sophisticated understandings, that really is the heart of what they’re going to take out of school. Are they going to remember how to solve that calculus problem? Maybe, you know. But they’ll also remember what it was like, maybe more so, to work in that group and have to problem-solve something about a presentation. You know what I mean? So there’s just lots of different sorts of skills that do different sorts of things. And how does the kind of ethics of who we are as humans with one another fit into some of that? So, thank you. Maybe one last idea?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: Motivating.
Dawson: Motivating. And why so?
Audience member: It’s hard enough to get students interested in learning while they’re in university. Maybe if you can structure the learning environment, classes, and the entire place that they’re in, you can get them to want to continue learning whether or not they’re no longer there.
Dawson: Absolutely. And that motivation, that engagement, is a really complex thing and a perfect gift for me for my transition, so thank you for that. So I’m going to take you to our next strategy. Here we go. This is a sociometric. I love to tell folks like myself, who are in the arts and education—which are like the two buildings that haven’t been touched since 1969 on our campus, while we’re amongst all the newly, beautifully built, named buildings around us—that this is a way that you too can do fancy stuff without any equipment. It’s cut and dry.
A sociometric is kind of measuring people’s opinions, a group, about something. And we are going to do this. I have three statements that kind of tie into motivation and engagement. And we are going to be our own human clicker or barometer, and we are going to vote from our seat to answer the question. So assumedly, if being the awesome participants that you’ve been so far, what I’m going to ask you to do is the following: When I put out the statement, it’ll be up here so you can see it visually as well, I’ll read it twice, you make your decision on what you think. If yes, you agree, it’s an arm or two arms, whatever feels comfy for your body today. That you show “Yes, I agree,” and then you have this nice little continuum all the way down to “No, I disagree, it’s not true.” All right?
Give me a thumbs-up if you understand those directions. OK. Great. Thank you for that. The thing I want to be really clear about is there is not a right or wrong answer that I am looking for. So, don’t hesitate or feel odd if your vote is different from the person sitting next to you. That’s kind of part of the point. So feel free to vote your heart. And the last thing I’ll say is, once you make your vote, I’m going to ask you to hold it for just a minute so we can peek around the room and do some estimation on our voting before we relax. And, again, know your own body, and use it as you need to do it. OK?
So here is our first statement. I’ll read it twice before we vote. I’ll tell you when to vote. So the first statement is: Learning is easy. So give a thought to that. Learning is easy. Yes or no. Please vote. Learning is easy. What do you think? All right. Hold your votes. Cast your votes. All right. Now, can you please poke around? Look at the room. See what you see. Excellent. Nice pathway. OK, you can relax your arms. Thank you so much. So if we had to estimate what the percentages were, or what that vote was, how would you describe that vote? What would you say?
Audience member: 70/30?
Dawson: 70/30? 70 towards “yes” and 30 towards “no”? OK. So, you have a different viewpoint? What do you think? The other way around? 70 towards “no,” 30 towards “yes,” yeah? Oh, all right. Now we’ve got to think.
Audience member: That’s a big difference.
Dawson: That is a big difference.
Audience member: People’s arms are more visible when they’re raised, so it’s a lot—
Dawson: It’s a lot harder to see. It is. I could have made you stand. I decided not to do the thigh workout, though, today. That’s a thigh workout. We could go back to that for the new year; maybe we want to work on the thighs. We’ll see. You can let me know in the next one. Whatever you voted, I would like us to make an argument. What would be an argument, yes? Yes, it’s true. What makes learning easy? Someone have an idea? What makes learning easy?
Audience member: Course Hero.
Dawson: Say that again? Course Hero, I love it! Our company! Yes, and yes! My probing question follow-up is, why does Course Hero make learning easy?
Audience member: Because we have so many documents on the web that’s going to help you to learn and be successful.
Dawson: Excellent. So one thing I’m hearing you say is that resources, access to information that students might need just in time, so they can get to that thing to do better, helps make learning easier. So when you have resources, learning becomes easier. What else makes learning easier? What’s another thing?
Audience member: I was thinking about learning and in a broader sense. So, I had to learn machine-learning; I would not say that is easy. But if I had to learn the best way to get my favorite food item at the time I want it, that would be easily learnable.
Dawson: OK. So what I’m hearing you say is, the task matters.
Audience member: Yes.
Dawson: And not only does the task matter, but it matters in relationship to me. So both what my skill set is, perhaps my own capacities, [and] my interest in that. Am I interested in learning the mechanical thing, or am I really hungry? All those things deepen my kind of ease with learning something because I need it right now. What makes learning hard? What would make us vote lower? What makes learning more difficult?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: I would just say the individual capacity to absorb information. It’s a person-to-person type of a thing.
Audience member: So if I’m very interested in learning coding, unfortunately, no matter how many classes I put myself through, I literally [inaudible].
Dawson: Yeah, yeah.
Audience member: For me, it’s a difficult, uphill climb.
Dawson: Absolutely. And I would guess probably part of it’s how it’s taught, the kind of learning that is. I mean, I’m someone who … this may not be a perfect analogy, but I’m someone who fell asleep a lot as an undergraduate. I felt so bad about it, but I just—I’m a kinesthetic learner. I can’t stop my hands when I’m talking. It’s just who I am. So those kinds of classes, or how that was taught for me particularly, was hard, made it harder for me to learn. But [when] I was in an acting class, I was great.
I’m going to go to here, and then here [pointing to audience], OK? Yeah.
Audience member: I think that learning is beyond just your motivation and how you feel in that moment, the adaptation to it. There’s so many other things happening in your life that can make learning hard. You could be a parent, you could be responsible for someone else at home, you could be distracted by illness, so just so much more beyond just sitting butt in the seat, sitting in the class, to be able to learn.
Dawson: Thank you for that. So that makes me think a lot, again, about that prioritizing thing and that we are whole human beings. And that’s another thing I think faculty sometimes struggle with in the classroom. Why isn’t the student showing up to my class? Why isn’t this person dealing with this? So many students are dealing with mental health issues and anxiety and lots of other things. We’re all rich, complex people. Faculty themselves are rich, complex people. I get asked, more than anything else, by faculty, “Katie, what do I do when I don’t feel like going in to teach and I have to go in and teach? Can you give me an actor trick to … ?” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll show you something.”
But like, you want me to show you really quick? It’s super fun. This is the thing, teachers, I do all this stuff and they’re like, “Yeah, but show me that actor thing.”
Anyway, so here’s the simplest thing when you have to go do something and you don’t want to do it. It’s a faking thing, so that’s not … but anyway. Literally, think about your body as having 10,000 light bulbs coming out of it. And I might not feel really great right now, but maybe I’ll look a little better, and I’m going to come in and I’m going to be with you. So it’s literally like power posing, right? So it’s like that idea of willing yourself to be present, because presence matters. And getting back to what your smart point is, is: Sometimes as much as we want to bring that 1,000 light bulb energy, there’s something else going on that just won’t bring it. So, how does that affect our learning?
And one last idea? [Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: Yeah, my idea was, learning is work. It requires work.
Dawson: It does.
Audience member: To learn, this requires putting energy and time and commitment into it.
Dawson: Yeah, and thank you for that as a sort of final thing, because I think—is work and time commitment a bad thing? Really great theories, Lev Vygotsky’s theories, that I’ve been talking with someone else earlier today, but like zone approximal development. This idea that in your zone of actual development, if it’s really easy, if you didn’t have to do it all, work to do it, like why am I showing up for that class in the first place? I could teach it myself. It’s a waste of my time. I want to be in a space where I’m on that cusp, I’m in that proximal development. With your help and your help and that great resource you have and that really cool activity, I’m going to learn it because of that smart thing you said in class. Great. I got it. So it’s worth it for me to be here, because this community is going to get me there in whatever kind of community you might be making. So again, going back to Course Hero, if you’re creating those communities and resources to get people through that proximal development phase, that might be a really good thing.
All right, I have two more, and I’m talking too much. This is what happens! OK. Another one. Voting yes to no. I’ll read it twice. So here we go: Students learn best from their professor. Students learn best from their professor. Yes or no? Go ahead and vote. Let’s see that vote. Oh, look at that. Look at that. Course Hero is on that one, right? I’m, like, talking about your whole company here. Oh, I see some hands. Let’s relax. Relax. So, maybe a voice we haven’t heard from yet. What would be an argument for no, they don’t learn best from their professor? What would be an argument about that?
[Points to an audience member] Yes.
Audience member: Misinformation or misinformers.
Dawson: Absolutely. Yup, that’s a part of it. So there’s maybe not enough input there that’s going in. OK.
Audience member: Or they are teaching the wrong thing.
Dawson: OK. So there’s some of those sort of challenges as well in what’s happening in the room. OK. Thanks. What else?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah, in the back.
Audience member: As an art major, I learned a lot from critiques and my peers on how to get better.
Dawson: Yeah. Right, and you also think a lot about what are the skill sets that we need when we leave that space. Thank goodness we don’t always have that professor, though some people don’t want to let go and do email for a long time. But really, you’re building that peer group, right? You’re building that collection of folks. I mean, this company was founded by two folks who were in school together. I think that’s pretty common. Those peer groups become really important, and they give us a more diverse set of ideas and responses to kind of sift through and make meaning.
So, let’s just argue. Maybe you didn’t vote this way, maybe you did; but what is good to learn from your professor? What is the argument for learning from a professor? What argument would we make there?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: How to learn to learn. As in, how to learn your best way. If your professor is an anchor, he or she’s going to teach you the best ways to go back and learn.
Dawson: Yeah, I really appreciate that. That’s a lot of what we also were talking about in the academy right now. That, again, it goes back to that idea of it’s not the content I’m teaching. It’s learning how to learn. That’s a phrase we talk about a lot. And those kinds of methods underneath, the critical thinking, and this discipline or the way we analyze and synthesize in this discipline, is a key part of what I’m teaching in any class. Yeah. The reality is, they’re our professors and they need to be doing something. So that’s, again, how you’re also, I think Course Hero, are feeding into that space, too. There is someone who does have a little more experience, a little more knowledge. May not be exactly the right knowledge, maybe it needs to be filled in by other spaces as well, but they are through it enough to give you some guidance on how to get through it yourself, to get you through that zone of proximal development.
All right. Last question. One more: Responding with a good question is better—this is a little bit double-barreled, sorry about that. But: Responding with a good question is better than knowing the right answer. So, is responding with a good question yes, better than knowing the right answer? What do we think? Yes or no? Again, looking around the room, looking around the room. Take that in, and you can relax. So what’s important about good questions? Why are good questions important?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: It can imply that you’re engaged. That you’re trying to figure it out.
Dawson: Absolutely. So it’s that dialogic, meaning-making space, and it’s hitting on the fact that you are engaged in a sense-making, a meaning-making process, and that is huge. That’s important. It means that you’re actually going to probably retain it in a different way and remember it or be able to apply it. Excellent. Anything else? What else is a good question? Yeah, right in the back, and then we’ll go here. OK. Oh I know, like which back? How about you? This is when I need to know names. Sorry about that.
Audience member: Asking a good question is probably the fastest way to learn the right answer.
Dawson: Absolutely. So it’s bringing those ideas in. Another thought? Do you have a thought?
Audience member: Questions are about comprehension, but knowing the right answer could just be memorization.
Dawson: All right. So questions are about comprehension. Are you all hearing well enough? I just realized I usually try to repeat back. Sorry about that. Any other ideas? What is good about good questions? Yeah, right there.
Audience member: It’s how additional learning happens.
Dawson: OK, so it’s extending the learning, or the concept, or application. And one in the back?
Audience member: They expand the conversation because they’re identifying gaps in what everybody else might know.
Dawson: Awesome. So you’re reminding me, too, that all of us in the room have very different lived experiences. Right? We have different backgrounds, some of us come from different cultural and racial identity markers, we have lots of different things that make us unique. And I’ve got to be honest, a lot of the curriculum wasn’t written by that unique of a group of people, right? Decentering those folks in my curriculum is one of the biggest things I spend my time doing right now. Trying to pull in other voices, other examples, other experiences, because that is the community I’m teaching for. And thank goodness they’ve gotten aware enough about it that they want to be seeing examples from their lives in this space. So that’s great, and hopefully we’re going to get more of them engaged and teaching, and we’ll change the professorate, which is really the ultimate goal, I think, in my opinion. But we need to have those voices, as part, those questions back, which sometimes do reveal a gap, or places that aren’t kind of filled with all of the experiences in the room. OK.
So you just all unpacked a huge amount of scholarship for teaching and learning. So, again, I’m not going to take time to unpack the strategy, but I do invite you to think what is it to do it this way as opposed to me just showing you five PowerPoint slides about everything you all brought up and maybe some things I wouldn’t have even thought of to bring up about these ideas.
[Showing a slide] This is an example from the business school. I just wanted to show an example of how someone else might do one of these strategies. I was working with the Career Services program at our big business school at UT to help rethink how they opened their time with the MBAs. So we have this sociometric. No clickers. I said, you must stand or vote with your arms. This sort of troubled-out some preconceived notions that they often came into, into Career Services, feeling they didn’t need it, and it enabled us to start getting into a more complex discussion by starting our work together using these sorts of open-ended questions.
So my last strategy that I have time for is pretty fun. This one involves some props, so I’ll bring those out. As I’ll fill this time, because time is important. This strategy itself comes from a practitioner named Augusto Boal. He was a contemporary of Paulo Freire, who’s kind of the father of critical theory, critical pedagogy. Augusto Boal came up with a bunch of different strategies that were really looking at social justice and systems of power and inequity, and using drama and theater to investigate it. So this strategy comes from his set of practices called the Great Game of Power, and it works something like this.
In a moment, some magical … Here, I’ll angle it more for my audience, which is on an angle, so you could see a little better. So in a moment, some volunteer from the audience is going to come up and arrange these four chairs and this Course Hero water bottle in such a way—it could go however you want—that, in your opinion, one chair has more power than all the rest. I’m going to say that one more time. I’m actually literally going to sit down in the audience. Someone is going to come up here. Who is it going to be? I don’t know, they will volunteer; and they are going to arrange these chairs however you want. You can do whatever you want with them—just don’t break them—but you can do whatever you want, and they probably should stay in this area. Arrange them in such a way that, in your opinion, one chair has more power than all the rest. And you can include the water bottle in the image. Go for it.
Oh, thanks. [Audience volunteer begins rearranging chairs.]
Yes! [Laughter from audience] Those power moments. It’s very performative, which is good. Thank you! Applause. Applause. It’s beautiful. And remind me, your name is?
Dawson: Katie! Right? Come on! Snaps for that. So Katie, if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask you not to tell us what you were thinking. We are just going to make meaning out of this. And partly I’m not going to ask you because once you tell us that meaning, then that kind of becomes the truth. So we’re just going to play around a little bit. OK? [Katie moves chairs.]
So, Katie’s given us this great image to look at. And I’m going to ask you to do something that’s really hard. Which is, I’m going to ask you to start off by just describing what you see. So we’re going to describe the positions of these chairs. What do you see? Can someone tell me one description?
[Points to an audience member] Yes.
Ereen: A winner.
Dawson: OK. That is awesome, but what do you see that makes you say “a winner.”
Ereen: The others have fallen apart while this one is stood up.
Dawson: Oh, I’m going to keep with you, Ereen. So, you tell me very specifically. I’m going to just ask you to give me a description. So what does falling apart mean? What is that?
Ereen: It means they are on their side.
Dawson: OK, so you see chairs on their side.
Dawson: Awesome. OK. I’m going to hold with “chairs on their side.” We’ll get back to winner. So, I see chairs on their side. What else do we see? I’m just looking for description.
Audience member: One’s higher than the rest.
Dawson: OK, which chair is higher than the rest?
Audience member: The bottle chair.
Dawson: This chair. OK, so this chair is higher than the rest. What else can we describe? And I will tell you, it looks different where you are in the room. So if you want to get up and move around, you can, too. How else would we describe this?
[Points to an audience member] Yes?
Audience member: That chair has something all the rest don’t.
Dawson: Excellent, so one chair is holding something that none of the rest of the chairs have. Yes?
Audience member: From this perspective, those chairs are in the background.
Dawson: Thank you. So we can talk about foreground and background. So this chair is further up, downstage, if you remember your theater terms. But this one is in the foreground; these are in the background. What else do we see? Yeah.
Audience member: Because there’s something on the chair, it looks like it belongs to someone.
Dawson: Interesting. We’re getting into a little interpretation. This chair’s holding something, and one interpretation of holding something, is that it looks like it belongs to that person. Do we have any other interpretation of something being on something else besides belonging to? How else could we interpret that? Anyone else got anything else?
Audience member: Caring.
Dawson: Caring, maybe. Protecting, maybe. We could add and personify all sorts of things here. Another description that you have?
Audience member: No chairs are united.
Dawson: Excellent. So none of these chairs, and by united, what’s makes it not united? What are you seeing?
Audience member: Distance.
Dawson: There’s distance, OK. We could really specific here about the amount of distance. When I’m working with groups—this is a meta moment—I will keep asking them to be specific about these observations. I’m going to move more quickly because, oh, my time is almost gone. But I think it’s really important in the work—of the strategy—is to help people return to the fact of what is an observation versus an interpretation. That’s what I’m working on right now with you.
OK. We spent more time making those observations. Let’s make some interpretations now. Which chair would you say has the most power? Which chair?
Audience member: The chair with the bottle.
Dawson: The chair with the bottle. OK, so this chair here has the bottle. If we’re thinking about why, why might that chair have the most power? What makes it the most powerful?
Audience member: The last chair standing.
Dawson: It’s the last chair standing. So one way to look at power is that you are still upright. Right? Everything else has fallen down. We might talk a little bit, and I would have pulled this out of you a little bit more. What does it mean when our legs are up? Does that look unsteady? Does that look solid or protected or not? This might look open or exposed. We could go in to some of that detail. But there’s something for us in terms of making meaning that a chair that is upright, that is still standing, has the most power. Great.
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: It’s unique.
Dawson: It’s unique. Great. One way we might be powerful in our world is to be unique or be different. That can give us a lot of power. If we were taking this image and saying it represents something in our everyday life, what might this represent?
Audience member: The Hunger Games, chair version.
Dawson: The Hunger Games, the chair version! Absolutely. And Hunger Games, if I’m working with Hunger Games, that was about, literally, young people killing each other to survive. It might be something from a book. We could take it from there. What might this represent? Another thing.
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: It has all the resources.
Dawson: OK, great. So this might be a country, for example, that has all the resources or we could look at socio-economic spaces and ways that societies are working together. Class, we could think about that. So, what does resources mean? All right. We could go on and make a lot of interpretations here relating this to something we’re studying, but before we do that, I want to push us to make a different interpretation. Someone make the argument about how another chair is the most powerful than that one.
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: The chairs that have fallen down will not be sat on.
Dawson: OK. Which one? Because we’ve got a chair.
Audience member: All of them. I guess the three fallen chairs.
Dawson: All three of them. You would group them together as the most powerful?
Audience member: Yeah.
Dawson: OK. Do you have another idea in the back there?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: Yeah. I think the front chair is the most vulnerable because it can still get knocked over.
Dawson: OK. Great.
Audience member: It’s only powerful assuming that you’re going to use it for sitting.
Dawson: Excellent. So, we are then thinking about form and function. We are also thinking about numbers matter. Right? Yeah, these are all lying down, but this one may be super exposed now. We can see it. It’s going to be knocked out, or these three might be the same in some way, and they’re working together to overthrow this one. This chair thing could get really big. This is how Game of Thrones was written, I just want you to know that. I actually know one of the authors. They just sat around and talked about chairs. Maybe.
All right. Anyway, I might do a lot more with this work here and quite honestly, if this was a class, I would have someone else come up and make us a whole new image, and we would do the whole process again, probably being even a little bit better at that description part the second time around, because that’s a muscle you have to practice. But just for time and for inquiry space…. Oh, I forgot I wanted to pull it out here. Hang on just one second. Awkward transition. I’m going to grab my, it is called The Notebook. [Pulls notebook from bag and holds it up] My husband got that for me. It’s very aptly named.
Course Hero, a quote I took from your website, says, “We envision a world … ” Here, I’ll get where you can see it on camera. “We envision a world where every student graduates confident and prepared.” All right, Course Hero, if we, if you, envision a world where every student graduates confident and prepared, I would like someone to come up and make a picture of chairs in such a way that you think it is a learning environment where every student will graduate confident and prepared. What does that look like? Arrange the chairs and the water bottle in a confident and prepared learning environment. And this person will get to talk about the image if they want. Thanks. Come on up. You’re like, “Wait, I’m out of here.” No, no, come up. Come up. [Applause] We’re excited!
Preetham: You just added that.
Dawson: I’m sorry. You don’t have to. I often let people, if they’re making a particular image, to feel you get the last word, is what you get. [Audience member moves chairs.]
This is where we could hum some background music. I know. You have your podium in the middle of it.
Preetham: The distance doesn’t matter [inaudible].
Dawson: You like it? Thank you. And your name is?
Dawson: Breetham? Say the first letter. B-R?
Preetham: It’s like freedom.
Dawson: Oh, Freetham.
Preetham: It’s Preetham.
Dawson: Preetham. Got it, Preetham. [Preetham arranges chairs in a circle.] Love it. Sorry you had to say that. OK. Thank you. You can have a seat. OK, Preetham. Thanks, Preetham. What do we see? What do we describe? Let’s just start for the description. What do we see in the position of the chairs? One thing.
Dawson: Great. And how do you see collaboration, Ereen? I’m going to keep doing that to you.
Ereen: [Inaudible] they’re discussing something with each other.
Dawson: OK. So, tell me physically what you see the chairs doing that suggests collaboration.
Ereen: They are facing each other. They’re in a circle.
Dawson: Awesome. What else do we see physically? Yeah, right in the back.
Audience member: Access to equal resources.
Dawson: Awesome. So you’re noticing the position of the chairs gives them equal access to that center thing, which we might call resources. Any other observations that people can make about all of these chairs?
Audience member: Symmetry.
Dawson: Symmetry. Great. What else do we see about these chairs?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: They’re at the same level.
Dawson: They’re at the same level. Thank you. What else do we see about these chairs? Give me one more thing. It can be anything you want.
Audience member: They’re all upright.
Dawson: They’re all upright. Excellent. Maybe they’re all situated in the way they’re meant to be used. Think about it that way. We’ve got some of that background observational, so let’s do some interpretation. What, if we’re thinking about things upright, used the way they need to be, there’s symmetry, there is connection, there’s equal distance. Those are some of the different things. There’s collaboration. How might this represent what we think Course Hero’s users or consumers need to be successful in their academic careers? How does this represent that?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: They’re all looking at one similar subject, but all from a different perspective.
Dawson: Awesome. So this could be a great metaphor for perspective taking and the importance of consistent clarity on the topic, what the question is…. But that kind of multiple answers to things we were asking, or even questions you might ask, bringing in those different perspectives. And there’s a lot of clarity around what the direction is, which is really good teaching/learning practices. Anything else? What’s another interpretation?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah?
Audience member: There’s no chair that’s dominating as the teacher/educator. Everyone’s together at the same space, able to share and discuss.
Dawson: Awesome. So we’ve kind of flattened the hierarchy of the classroom. We are sharing power, we might say, if we’re looking at critical theories around education. We see the value of what the professor and that student, bringing in really equal things to kind of build a more richer understanding of that concept that we’re working towards. Great.
We’ll go to the last two right here.
[Points to an audience member] Yeah. Whichever one wants to go first.
Isabel: I’m thinking about our platform allows people to pay or not pay.
Isabel: That it’s not like there’s—at least from my perspective, I could be wrong—but I think that the non-payer gets just as much access, or they can have just as much access to the knowledge, as the payer.
Isabel: So that kind of, supporting all learning and how the chairs are, there is no hierarchy.
Dawson: Awesome. So, I’m hearing you talk about some of the barriers that folks might experience in using some of your resources, and one of those might be around cost or pay and some of the ways you’re trying to mitigate some of that, for sure. Yeah. Something else?
Audience member: Just the way it’s structured makes me think that everyone has what they need to succeed in learning and that nobody’s being left out. They’re just sort of [inaudible].
Dawson: Awesome. These are great ideas. Yeah. One last one.
Audience member: I’ll just build off on what Isabel just said. Just the fact that someone has to start offering in order for another person to start learning.
Audience member: So I have to give what I have in order for someone else to learn.
Dawson: It’s a moving image that goes that way. [Laughter] OK. All right. I could get really silly if we had more time. Thank you. And thank you for that. Again, we could do a lot more with this. This might be great to break out in teams and do your own images and read them back.
I think this kind of nonlinguistic representation is really rich for lots and lots of folks. To circle back to my story of the aboriginal community—not the aboriginals of Australia, the [inaudible]-Athabaskan community—I remember that one of the first things I did with that group when I walked in—and every single one of those high school kids was like on their desk like, “I’m not even looking at you.” And I just put up those chairs, and I offered the request, and I went and sat there. For 15 minutes I did sit, but finally someone got up and made the first picture, and then we were rocking and rolling.
It’s kind of hard to look at these chairs long enough and not offer something, because you’re making meaning. You are, even if you don’t love the strategy. You have something going on. Those things often want to be said.
Preetham, I wanted to make sure I got back to you. Did you want to say anything else about this image?
Preetham: I wanted to say all of those things, but [inaudible].
Dawson: One of the things that is very interesting—I can say this to you and Katie about this strategy—is, in general, people come up with things, yes, maybe you thought about, but also different things you haven’t thought about, too. Would you say, yeah? Yeah. So I think there’s also something really wonderful about getting your ideas amplified and supported, that comes for the person that does volunteer, which hopefully—
Preetham: I want to say, synergy, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dawson: OK. Great.
Preetham: Each of this can be accessed in many different ways. All of the tiers can be put in any which way.
Preetham: When you actually bring them together and provide access on a single platform, that synergizes things.
Dawson: I love that. And then how that becomes the most powerful tool of all. Awesome. Thank you. So, Great Game of Power. [Shows slide] Just so you know, the kind of thing we’re working on in that strategy that I say cuts across every discipline is something I call DAR: describe-analyze-relate. So we are making observations, we are making interpretations, and we are making connections. How does that relate to the larger inquiry? That’s what I was sort of breaking down, and I think, in a fundamental level, that is how we analyze and synthesize meaning in my graduate work classes as well as my undergraduate classes—as well as when I go into my daughter’s fourth grade class. We’re still working on those same skills, to be honest.
They are kind of important parts, particularly in this day and age. We need to slow down to see. We need to take time to look closely. We need to take time to hear that other perspective in the room. Those are a part of how I think we’re going to start solving some of these issues that we’re having in society right now, which—I won’t get political, but those are there, right? Great Game of Power applications. Folks use this strategy, and what I also love about this with the university level is, we do this sometimes in a 500-person auditorium. I’ve done this in keynotes with 500 people before. You can do it in a big group, you can do it in a class of 10. It doesn’t matter. No one has to get up with their body, because it’s just the chairs and they’re very respectful. They’ll hold their position for a long time, which I love.
Anyway, teachers have used this, faculty have used this, to have folks interrogate an author’s argument, to represent a character relationship in a text, to rebut systems of government. Really, the ideas are endless. To think about Course Hero strategy. You can do it. Whatever you want. But it’s a nice way to kind of get back into the metaphor, which we started with today, to think abstractly and concretely about ideas. Lovely, thoughtful picture to end with.
I’m a big believer in rituals to begin and rituals to end, and one of the ways I like to end my classes is a checkout. I also do check-ins at the top. In big classes, that might be checking in with the person next to you. In smaller classes, we literally hear everyone’s check-in and what’s going on.
I do the same with a checkout. The way I do checkouts—lots of different ways, but one way I do them is called “It Made Me Think.” It’s like, you can imagine there was a blank line and then it said, “comma, it made me think.” I’m going to invite you—because we are a big group, we don’t have time to hear everyone—but there should be some Post-its around you. If you don’t mind grabbing a Post-it®, and I’m going to go ahead and invite you to fill in a word or a phrase about something that came up today. It could have been something wise and wonderful from one of your colleagues, something in the PowerPoint slide, something from me. It doesn’t matter, but give us a word or phrase. What are you thinking about right now? Take a moment to do that for yourself. I’m going to give you one minute to do that, and then we’ll do a very quick checkout, and we’ll be done.
Audience member: Just one word?
Dawson: Word or phrase. Sometimes one word is not enough. A word or phrase is great. [Pause] I’ll know that you’ve got yours done when your eyes are back on me. [Pause] This is also a cheap opportunity for me to smile at all of you, admittedly. It’s also a little creepy, so I have to watch it. OK. I’ve got most eyes or eyeballs or people are in the process. Maybe we’re not going to hear everyone, unfortunately, but maybe just a few folks. What’s one thing, word or phrase, that you’re thinking about? And if you want to kind of do the performative version of it, we would say, “Course Hero is amazing. It made me think.” So you can sort of phrase the “it made me think” afterwards. Anyone want to go?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: I would like to say that I got really interested in the word motivation because—just as you taught, right? To be in a situation and to be in the moment is so important, so that really motivated me. So [inaudible].
Dawson: So you would say, “Motivation, it made me think.”
Audience member: Yes.
Dawson: Awesome. Thank you for that. Another one?
[Points to an audience member] Yeah.
Audience member: Our North Star is graduate, and we spend a lot of time talking about what happens after we graduate [inaudible].
Dawson: OK. Thank you. Yeah.
Katie: Drama at work, it made me think.
Dawson: Great, Katie. I’ll pay you later. [Laughter] All right.
Katie: I’ll do more of that.
Dawson: Yeah. Other thoughts? Maybe one more? Yeah.
Audience member: Building blocks. I think a lot of what you did was separate it into steps that, even though they were phrased differently, were really foundational steps that are fundamental to a lot of different situations and critical thinking.
Dawson: Awesome. Made you think. Thank you. This made me think a lot about my own work, I have to say, because I’ve had meetings all morning, and I rarely feel so energized and excited and wanting to go back and be a better teacher than I have through all of this this morning. So thank you for being—just know, you run a generous ship. It’s quite a lovely place to visit and get to be a part of, and it made me think a lot about what is the future of education and how might we be partnering more explicitly with folks out here in Silicon Valley and thinking about this kind of improvement or goals that all of us are trying to get to. So, thank you for that. What an honor to be here. Thanks.