Kristin is a sociology PhD student. This semester, she will be leading a social sciences workshop for high school students in Beijing, China from March 11 to 13 at the Columbia Global Center. There will be about fifty high school students coming from major cities throughout China. The workshop will introduce basic principles and definitions in social science and then focus on acquiring social science skills, in particular, interviewing. This is based on a summer program in which Kristin taught last year.

Given the distance between New York City and Beijing, Max will not be attending the workshop. We decided against Skype because of the unreliability of Internet access and concerns about scheduling. In its stead, we will be recording Kristin's workshop and observing it digitally. The files will be returned by Kristin's colleagues.

We plan to record two events, the second of which will be backup in case there is any trouble with technology. We choose the two most formal introductory lectures because lecturing is a pedagogical skill which Kristin wants to improve. Most of her teaching has been in small, informal groups. Hence, lecturing is a relatively unfamiliar skill that demands careful planning and would benefit from observation. In particular, Kristin is concerned about her tendency to underexplain and go on tangents. In order to address these concerns, Max will review Kristin's lecture notes and other preparatory materials prior to her departure and provide feedback to help her find the correct register for communicating introductory ideas to a high school audience.

A few notes on the logistics of video recording: The majority of events that take place at the Global Center are video recorded. We are not relying solely on the GC team, however. Kristin's administrative team will bring their own video equipment to guarantee that the lectures will be recorded. While she is confident the lecture will be recorded, because of the number of contstraints/ unpredictable time demands that may be placed upon the administrative/ teaching team working in an unfamiliar environment, we decided not to organize the observation around any recording demands beyond the lecture. For example, while we hope that the video will capture student responses and participation, it seems unwise to base the observation around guaranteeing that degree of videographer capacity. Student participation should be captured on audio, however.

Learning Goals (for students)
  • Students will acquire a clear understanding of the plan for the workshop and the expectations upon participants
  • Students will understand basic social science concepts, such as developing research questions, defining concepts, and identifying indicator variables.
  • Students will understand the utility of interviewing as a research tool.

Tracking (of Kristin's lecture)
  • Appropriateness of the explanation (Kristin tends to be too concise)
  • Frequency of tangents
  • Pacing (Kristin speaks too quickly - this is especially important given that the students are not native English speakers)
  • Use of idioms and other informal ways of communicating that are not amenable to a non-native student population

We face a few challenges with regard to outcome measurements - particularly given the brevity of the program and the limited knowledge of the students beforehand and limited access to them before and after. Also, as previously mentioned, it is likely that Max will not be able to view student responses.

However, during the Teagle meeting, we brainstormed two aspects of the program that may offer useful outcome measurements.
1) Interview questions. Prior to the program start, the students will all have conducted interviews and submitted summaries of the interviews and lists of the questions they asked. One of the lectures Max will evaluate will be on interview techniques. After this lecture, students will have the opportunity to conduct a (very brief) interview. We can compare the types of questions before and after the lecture. Have the students changed interview features discussed in the lecture? For example: the type and style of questions (open versus closed, leading, etc), pacing (number of interrruptions, silences). Do the interviewers adhere to a list of questions or do they follow the narrator? Do they ask follow up questions?
2) Lecture preparation. Since we will be recording two separate lectures, Kristin can vary the preparation and/ or techniques used in the lecture. The topics of the lectures (general thematic introduction v skill based) will necessitate different lecture styles - but in ways that are inherent to the topics, not generally manipulable for measurement. However, Kristin plans to vary her own preparation and visual presentation of the lecture - powerpoint without lecture notes or lecture notes with no power point. What is the impact of power point and visuals on students engagement/ attention? Especially given this is a non-native English speaking group, does it seem to distract and detract from the lecture?

This is the first time the team has run the workshop and the program and schedule are still subject to revisions and modifications. The general framework is set ... but the details of the activity, interview topics, guidelines, for example, may still be modified. Within practicalities, Kristin will try to keep the modifications suitable to the outcome measurements.

Timeline for Observation Session
  • Max and Kristin will present observation plan to Teagle Fellows (2/12)
  • Kristin will prepare detailed lecture notes (by Wednesday, March 1)
  • Max will review and comment on the notes
  • Kristin will leave on 3/9 for China
  • The target observation is on March 12 from 9:00 am to 10:30; the backup (also to be recorded) will take place the previous evening
  • China team (minus Kristin) will return on 3/18 and provide the video files to Max
  • The week of 4/5 (when Kristin returns), Kristin and Max will meet to watch the videos together.