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Cultural Theory in the Classroom

This page contains the documentation of the 2010/11 master's seminar / teacher training program

Cultural Theory in the Classroom.

Use the navigation on the left to access all files.
The navigation will lead to you to the basic reading assignments mandatory for all groups, the reading assignments for the specialized groups, complete documentations of all online discussion forums, a protocol of the workshop weekend, and protocols of the classroom projects conducted by mixed groups of teachers and students.

For a project overview, see below.

Overview
Logistic Considerations
The Weekend Workshops
Student Projects
Conclusions

Overview

Cultural Studies in the Classroom is a series of workshop weekends and seminars designed to bridge the gap between school teachers and university students in the field of cultural studies. This project was designed at the University of Freiburg in 2010 to close the gap between students (many of them destined to be school teachers) and those teachers in the field who are increasingly required to deal with English language learning materials which no longer fall into the category of literary studies.

Additionally, the scholars in the field of cultural studies at the university acknowledged that in many ways, cultural studies was never meant to be confined within the walls of academia. Instead, its rich history as a challenging critique of all sorts of cultural texts speaks for its ability to bring fresh and critical perspectives into the larger community particularly in the school setting.

As such, the project as a whole has been conceptualized as a two pronged approach which aims to equip those already teaching while giving students hands on experience in using what they learn now in “real life” situations in a high school classroom.
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Logistic Considerations

One of the primary challenges of the course was to make it interactive despite of the geographical distance which separated the class most of the time. Although the participants met for two weekends during the six month duration of the course, a great deal of the work done by the participants was based on small group formations of about 4 to 5 people who were required to interact with each other through both campus online (the internal university network), which provided a document repository and lively chat thread, and Edupad, a software program which allowed for real time editing of texts based at the University of Konstanz and available for tertiary education institutions.

In the case of this project, although most participants were at first a little shy about using the platforms, many having never experienced anything quite like it, the general consensus was that this was an effective and user friendly way of approaching the material, and initial hesitance soon gave way to many fruitful debates and shared materials.
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The Weekend Workshops

The initial kick-off weekend was held at the University of Freiburg campus. Here, participants were given the opportunity to meet their respective small groups as well as interact with the larger course in a relaxed yet productive atmosphere. Several seminal texts were assigned to the whole group for the weekend which laid the basis for a cultural studies methodology as well as highlighting some of the larger concerns of the course, namely the critical use of popular culture texts within a learning environment and the educational concerns which cultural studies has always aspired to.

After the initial weekend the participants were assigned various texts within their small groups which they were required to read and answer various questions about. Each small group had a particular thematic direction, and the participants were encouraged to think these texts into classroom situations and materials. Here the quick and convenient availability of the internet chat forums proved invaluable. Groups were encouraged to read and engage with both their own texts and the texts assigned to other groups, and to flesh out both their own findings and the concerns of the larger group into a presentation to be given at the final weekend meeting.

In the new year, students and teachers met at the Feuerwehrhotel in Titisee for a two day intensive workshop and report back as well as a guest lecture and additional mentoring from John Storey, an internationally known academic in the field of cultural studies. The focus afforded by such a get away was invaluable for the group, many of whom, as busy professionals, reveled in the chance to concentrate on the material at hand in a setting which promoted both intense discussion and reflection.
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Student Projects

All student members of the group where required to produce essays/ and or classroom projects for their final grades. Through this, many of the students had the chance, many for the first time, to teach a lesson plan of their choice using the methodological tools and ideas discussed in the workshops, alongside participating teachers. This proved to be a valuable learning experience and a chance for fresh perspectives outside of the university setting which many of the students have reported was both invigorating and challenging in ways they might not have previously foreseen.
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Conclusions

Cultural Studies in the Classroom was a bold move for a more community-oriented university. Its success and the eagerness of many of its participants to continue such overlapping projects between schools and the University of Freiburg was clear, and will hopefully pave the way for further projects of this sort.

The use of internet based learning was a valuable one. Although many of the participants would have enjoyed more “face time” to chat and debate in person (and certainly, should the course continue this would be a goal), the use of technology to underwrite and encourage learning was a great success.

The opportunity to work with John Storey was one which all the participants enjoyed. A gracious and generous scholar, his contribution to the course, both through the feedback sessions and the session in which he explained his own current work , were a great enrichment.

Certainly this is an important part of the university of the future – one which both upholds the high standards of rigorous academic research while concurrently seeking to serve and enrich the larger field of academic enquiry in schools and other educational examples.
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