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Engaging Students with Issue-Based Topics

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ENGAGING STUDENTS through Issues-Based Topics
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These teaching strategies can be used to increase understanding and student engagement  with issues-based course content. The strategies are designed to help students broaden their personal perspectives and improve their critical thinking skills. They will also help students who may feel vulnerable expressing their opinions, or changing their opinions openly in the classroom.
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Socratic Method:
Decision Matrix:
Decision Matrix Chart, free download
Future's Wheel:
Critical Thinking Skills:
Future's Wheel Chart, free download
The teacher becomes the 'guide on the side.' The classroom experience becomes a shared dialogue between teacher and the students in which both are responsible for pushing the dialogue forward through questioning. There are no pre-determined arguments or terminus to which the teacher attempts to lead the students.
Having students take sides and listen to other points of view is valuable, especially when they are given a safe space to change their opinion and are asked to come to a final decision. A decision matrix assists them in working through the issue and reaching a conclusion.
Enables students to analyze, predict, and speculate on potential outcomes of a decision related to an issue. Using If/Then statements can help the students to move through determining the order of consequences. It is also helpful to have them work together in groups to find the most positive solutions.
Students should understand that most, if not all, of our thinking is biased. Critical thinking skills are necessary to understand how our perceptions are formed and utilized. It will assist them in understanding how both ego and socio-centric perspectives can prevent higher-level intelligence.
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Building Concept Maps and Infographics:
ESPeN:  
Annotated Text and Notetaking:
Online Discussions:
Reader's Theatre:
LucidChart, full access with Aggiemail account
Piktochart, free download
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Social Media Positions:
Students work alone or in small groups to find issue-related posts, comments, or infographics on Facebook or Twitter. They should use critical thinking skills to determine good/bad sources of information and should also be able to identify Strawman and/or Red Herring arguments that detract the focus from the main topic.
Assist in helping students see the relationships between concepts that exist in complex issues. Building maps together in small groups can strengthen their confidence in reaching the broadest edges of issue impacts. Giving them assignments to design a concept map and then interpret the results in an infographic will also incorporate 'real world' skills.
Examining the Economic, Societal, Political, and Environmental impacts of an issue is one of the best ways to help your students understand the breadth, depth, and scope. It also frequently reveals that the "science" of an issue is generally not disputed, rather it is the choices or potential solutions we have, related to ESPeN, that cause our disagreement.
Asking students to annotate a text gives them opportunities to question, reflect, argue, mark important points, and write down definitions. Teachers who ask students to annotate text or their own classroom notes will find that they have greater engagement in classroom discussion. Sharing annotations in pair/share is always an effective learning strategy.
Effectively using online discussion forums is one of the best ways to extend classroom dialogue. Avoid giving students questions to answer, instead offer potential talking points, ask them to contribute blog-like posts regarding their opinions and perspective, or have them include photographic or video responses for increased engagement.
Simple role-play is often overlooked, but don't disregard its efficacy in the classroom. Having the students visualize the dialogue and interactions between the actors of an issue can give them a deeper sense of how conflict may be resolved through spoken and unspoken body language. Conflict resolution is a significant skill that must be learned by our students.
Illustrated Examples
Concept Map
Infographic
IDEAS
PRESENTED BY
Denise Stewardson Director, Utah Agriculture in the Classroom Utah State University Extension [email protected] Rose Judd-Murray Graduate Teaching Assistant College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences & College of Teacher Education and Leadership [email protected]