‘Teaching’ at UBC

I've been teaching Political Science courses at UBC since 2001. Graduate and undergraduate. I've taught the required quantitative methods course at both levels. Colleagues and I redesigned POLI380 to be a so-called 'flipped class' in 2012. Students have a lukewarm reaction to the material and the course design. I've also taught in my research specialties: elections & public opinion. But... I have now rejected the 'standard' way of designing and teaching a university class.

At UBC (and Michigan, Queen's, Manitoba) I've taught:

  • Undergraduate political science quantitative methods.
  • Graduate political science quantitative methods.
  • Public opinion and elections.
  • Canadian politics.

Until 2018 I've taught these in a more-or-less standard way. That is: readings, mostly me talking at students, some writing activities, some discussion, and often tests and a final exam.

In 2012 colleagues and I (Andrew Owen, Grace Lore) redesigned POLI380 to be more active, skills-oriented, and less lecture-y. By the standard measures (whether students thought the instructor was "effective") this transformation has been a mixed success.

I myself replaced lectures with powerpoint completely. Instead, I have interactive questions to which students respond through a Classroom Response System (Learning Catalytics, TopHat, etc.). I would never go back to lecturing. I'm convinced that it produces minimal lasting, deep learning and is basically a waste of everyone's time. I think it's pre-printing press technology and we've just never got past the idea that a real student experience is listening to an expert.

I'll never do anything even close to the normal course design again. In 2018, I went on two teaching adventures. The most radical was to have 48 students co-produce a website to be a public resource for a referendum in the province of BC. Here's the story: POLI308D 2018 & 2019: A radical course design to build the UVoteBC.ca and the Elect2019.ca websites. Then in 2020 and 2021 I kept it going but started using Notion; here's the story on that.

The other adventure was to do a 4th year seminar as a workshop in rapid-fire quantitative research. The entire reading list was three articles, one per month. Students replicated the research design in the articles, but on a different question with different data that they found and analyzed.

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