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Bringing Global Issues Into the Classroom Vividly. Curriculum Revisions in Sociology. Sociology is part of the STP Major at WPI. SS1202 “Introduction to Sociology and Cultural Diversity “ was designed to be I “Good preparation for the “IQP””. An Opportunity for STP?. The IQP

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sociology is part of the stp major at wpi
Sociology is part of the STP Major at WPI

SS1202 “Introduction to Sociology and Cultural Diversity “ was designed to be


“Good preparation for the “IQP””

an opportunity for stp
An Opportunity for STP?
  • The IQP
    • Junior year project required for all students
    • Examine the “Interaction” of Technology and Society
  • SS1202 A great success in the 1980’s
    • Social methods and concepts
    • STS case studies from Domestic issues filled the course illustrations
an opportunity for stp5
An Opportunity for STP?
  • WPI shifted toward being the“Global” University among Technical Schools. The IQP drifted from being an S-T project to being a Cross-cultural consciousness raising project in about 1992
an opportunity for stp6
An Opportunity for STP?
  • Now it was no longer so clear how to prepare people for the IQP as it was not always an S-T project anymore
  • SS1202 Course had to change back into a more standard Intro. to Sociology and Cultural Diversity
an opportunity for stp7
An Opportunity for STP?
  • I considered just changing the cases
  • Bhopal for the Buffalo Creek Flood
  • Chernobyl for TMI but it took too long to provide the social context for the students to see the S-T or policy point.
an opportunity for stp8
An Opportunity for STP?
  • Achebe’s book “Things Fall Apart” became the cross cultural reading.
  • But 30-50% of my classes did not get the S-T point as it was not contemporary but dealt with the culture clash associated with the European Colonization of Africa.
an opportunity for stp9
An Opportunity for STP?
  • Perhaps the students could teach each other about a variety of different modern nations and then debate an S-T issue from the standpoint of their nation?
  • Live Role Playing Game introduced into the course- focused on Space Policy. In effect, the Space Faring Nationals of the World try to work together to devise an Asteroid Deflection Device. As an add-on to the course it proves distracting
an opportunity for stp10
An Opportunity for STP?
  • Studies of the LRPG and the course as using MBTI based learning styles data, indicated that the course as a whole favored one type of students (Intuitives) the ones that read between the lines- and tended to get the point of the “Things Fall Apart” book.
an opportunity for stp11
An Opportunity for STP?
  • However, the LRPG, with all its direct experience processing, seemed to help the other students (Sensors) learn about cultural diversity. Further, it did so without an educational tradeoff. The S gain was not an the expense of the N’s. However, the logistics of the game were daunting and the course was too busy and lacked integration.
starting over
Starting Over

How SS1202 became a Macro-sociology course on Modernization, with a focused cross regional comparison between the experience of Western Europe and the Middle East-with little if any attention to the USA.

choosing a text
Choosing a Text
  • Nolan and Lenski Text Adopted- to describe the Western experience and put it in an evolutionary perspective. Middle Eastern Nations are presented as “agrarian” rather than a modern states.
bernard lewis
Bernard Lewis
  • “What Went Wrong?:The Clash Between Islam and Modernity” was read to set the stage for a “class discussion”
  • Book blamed lack of Middle Eastern modernization on Islamic cultural issues
  • Lewis blind to idea of modernization as a structural transformation, in the European Experience. (The purpose of Sociology was to make sense of this structural change.)
  • Middle Eastern nations diverse, not uniform as presented by Lewis (over-generalization)
comparative modernization

Comparative Modernization

A live role playing game exploring the differences between Europe and the Middle East


To explore the interaction between the Middle East and Europe in terms of differential rates and reactions to modernization and build a live role playing game (LRPG) around it

game format
Game Format
  • Model UN debate—UNESCO conference
  • 5 European countries
    • England, France, Germany, Italy, (Spain)
  • 5 Middle Eastern countries
    • Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey
  • Students given choice between LRPG or term paper
    • All but 2 of 50 students chose the game
conference structure
Conference Structure
  • 3 days
    • 2 - 1 hour in class sessions
    • 1 final 2 hour session
      • Opening / closing statements
      • Open debate
      • Meetings with international counterparts
      • Unstructured time
  • Instructor and coaches (an IQP team) also participated as UN representatives.
student s responsibilities
Student’s Responsibilities
  • Character sheets
    • Resume
    • Biography
    • Letter of acceptance
  • Individual research
  • Develop and simulate role
  • Write a Diary, day be day “in role”.
coaches responsibilities
Coaches’ Responsibilities
  • Prepare country specific briefings
  • Prepare students for roles (diplomat, bureaucrat,technical advisor, scientist)
  • Provide additional info. on culture, power structure, etc.
  • Coached ( Middle Eastern) teams drastically outperformed European teams.
game experience
Game Experience
  • Nations discussed possible foreign aid arrangements and program goals.
  • They could agree on:
    • Infrastructure improvements
    • Improved health care
    • education and literacy programs

(They struggled with who would be educated and where- as well as who decides how the money would be spent.)

grading metric
Grading Metric
  • Students graded on written submissions
    • Character sheet and background
    • Most of the grade was from a diary style journal, written by students after each day
    • Journal required students to reflect on the events of the game in-role, especially the struggle over the education of women, and whether “becoming like the West” was the goal, or was it creating, not just a more stable and prosperous Middle East, but inventing a Modern Islamic nation not based on existing models.
myers briggs type indicator
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • MBTI Dimensions
    • Extravert / Introvert
    • Sensing / iNtuitive
    • Thinking / Feeling
    • Judging / Perceiving
  • Only interested in E/I and S/N dimensions
  • Act first, think/reflect later
  • Feel data deprived when cutoff from interaction with the outside world
  • Usually open to and motivated by outside world of people and things
  • Enjoy wide variety and change in people relationships
  • Think/reflect first, then Act
  • Regularly require an amount of "private time" to recuperate
  • Motivated internally, mind is sometimes so active it is "closed" to outside world
  • Prefer one-to-one communication and relationships
  • Mentally live in the now, attending to present opportunities
  • Using common sense and creating practical solutions is automatic-instinctual
  • Memory recall is rich in detail of facts and past events
  • Learn best when the specific facts are presented first, get the general concept later.
  • Like clear and concrete information; dislike speculation, estimation and ambiguity.
  • Read between the lines
  • Using imagination and creating new possibilities is instinctual
  • Memory emphasizes patterns, contexts, and connections
  • Learn best after conceptual overview, theoretical understanding first, then factual details.
  • Comfortable with ambiguous data and with guessing its meaning
wpi mbti distribution
WPI MBTI Distribution





wpi vs us mbti distribution
WPI vs. US MBTI Distribution

WPI MBTI Distribution 2001-2005

WPI MBTI Distribution 2001-2005

Estimated US MBTI Distribution

Estimated US MBTI Distribution

why use mbti
Why use MBTI?
  • Balance course based on personality types
    • Previous course revision had a bias
  • Accommodate different learning styles
team creation
Team creation
  • Teams formed based on MBTI data
  • Class given opportunity to choose
    • Diverse groups
      • Adds conflict potential within groups
    • Similar groups
      • Groups tend to “settle” too easily
  • Class chose to create diverse groups
  • All teams split on E/I and S/N dimensions
prior findings
Prior Findings
  • Game used to expose cultural diversity
    • Different themes over the years
      • Nuclear proliferation
      • Space collaboration
  • Course biased towards intuitive students
  • LRPG helped sensing students
  • George Spino et. al.
  • Introverts outperformed Extroverts in the new Modernization of M.E. game
    • Introvert-Intuitive specifically performed the best
  • Extraverts performed uniformly
    • Both Intuitive and Sensing
why introverts
Why Introverts?
  • Extraverts would seem likely to perform better in an LRPG modeled on a UN meeting, but …
  • Students were primarily graded on journal entries
    • Journal entries required reflective thought
    • More tuned to Introvert style
class feedback
Class Feedback
  • Class completed surveys on the game
      • Note: Introverts created the game
  • Overall Students were satisfied
    • Student complaints-(from ES students)
      • More organization, instructions
      • Provide character sheets, don’t make us write them.
  • Previous “ Asteroid threat” Version of game helped Sensing Students
  • New ‘Modernization” revision did not, as Introverted Intuitive students were stars.
  • Only one major difference between them.
    • IN authors thought it would be more fun if the students created their own characters
    • Criticism focused on that decision
  • LRPG’s with Model UN elements are a powerful way to bring Global issues into the class room vividly and allow students to prepare for overseas project work. But...
    • Games can but do not automatically balance the class for S-N and E-I types of learners.
    • The Critical Pedagogical Decision involves scripting through briefing papers and character sheets.