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Two exercises:

North-South, East-West is a debate format
Identify Assumptions helps students prepare for the next reading

 

North-South, East-West.  Paul Recupero, Villanova University

This exercise organizes the class into two debates.  It works best with a small class of 20, but can be expanded to larger group.  This was developed by Paul Recupero, a Villanova University undergraduate.

1. Choose two issues that are suitable for debate. 
2. Divide the class into four groups (North, South, East,West)
3. Pick two debatable issues from the day's reading. You might want to warn students in advance what role they will be assigned to.  So for example, for a class on Plato's Republic the issues might be:

For a larger class you might assign several groups to each position, so for a class of 40 you might have two groups of 5 on each position.  We find that students, especially shy students, do best when they are assigned a role, rather than choosing their own role.
4.  Allow students time to caucus with their group to develop arguments.
5.  Then move to debate.  First debate is between North and South on their assigned question.   Each group makes a short opening statement and then debates freely.  Encourage groups to address each other, not the teacher, and to use first person language ("you seem to believe that . . . " rather than "they are saying that . . ").  If there are more than five people in each group, the group position should be defended by representatives from the subgroups.  Don't let them know who the representatives are until the last minute, so every student will need to be prepared.
6.  If one student dominates the discussion for his/her group, you may announce, "James has just been stung by the silence-bee, and his vocal cords are paralyzed for the next five minutes."  This forces other members of the group to take a more active role. 
7.  After North-South has had its debate, ask members of East-West groups to comment on North South debate, explaining which points were most effective. 
8.  Then East-West does its debate, and North-South team members comment on that debate.

Author: John Immerwahr
Update: January 26, 2008

Identify Assumptions, John Immerwahr, Villanova University

Students often think they understand existing positions, especially religious views (they will sometimes write, "since St. Augustine was a saint, he believes that . .  .).  This exercise is designed to help students identify their assumptions about "traditional" religious views, and contrast them both with their own views and with the views of St. Augustine.It turns out, of course, that Augustine's views are quite different both from their own views and from what they take to be traditional views.  For example, many students think that the traditional religious view is that sin is "breaking God's rules,"  whereas their own position is that sin is "violating one's own principles" or "hurting other people."  Augustine's view is that sin is loving the lower over the higher, which is quite different from either of those positions.   As usual, give only one copy of the sheet to each group, so they start working together from the beginning.  This exercise would have to be adapted for different contexts, but the general idea is to isolate the questions you will be talking about, and ask students to identify both their own views and what they take to be the "traditional view." 

Assignment.  In your group, fill out as much of the matrix below as you can.  If you can not agree on the contents of any specific box, try to capture your disagreement.  I'll call on one person in the group to report for the group.  We'll refer to this material when we start reading St. Augustine's Of Free Choice of the Will for the next class.

Topic Traditional (Christian) religious views Your own view
What is sin?     

                                                        

                                                          
Why  do people sin?  

 

 
What happens to people who sin?  

 

 
Why does God allow sin?  

 

 

Author: John Immerwahr
Update: January 26, 2008
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 So for example, for a class on Plato's Republic the themes might be:

 

 

 

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