It’s Not True that We’re Not Experts in “Anything”

It’s Not True that We’re Not Experts in “Anything”

Professors Davidson and Gates began our first week of our class, “Mediating Race,” with a Think Pair Share question: “Write down one thing that you’re an expert in and one thing that you’re hoping to learn from this class.”

After students wrote down their answers and discussed them in pairs, we convened as a class to share with everyone. Most students said they weren’t experts in anything, that they didn’t really *get* pop culture or social media, etc. … but as they started talking, they realized that they were, in fact, experts in many things related to the class topic. I, for one, realized that I’m quickly becoming an expert in Star Trek, especially Deep Space 9, and that I really want to learn more about how race is mediated in that series (and in the Star Trek universe/industry more generally).

Professor Gates pointed out that even making the choice not to watch something or not to participate in a particular form of social media–for any reason–is to critically engage that forum, to have an opinion about it, to think about how people (and, I would add, their data) are filtered through that platform. Professor Davidson pointed out that interactive activities like Think Pair Share reveal the expertise in the room. Rather than defer to the authority of a single person–a professor–it’s more beneficial to everyone to collect and survey a range of standpoints and areas of expertise to contribute to and complement a class discussion and/or lecture.

Over the course of the conversation, and because of the unique references each member of our class brought to the table, we started adding more resources, links, and readings to our syllabus and formed a supplemental bibliography for further reading, listening, and viewing. You can access our working bibliography (and follow along as it grows throughout the semester) here.

For our next class meeting, we’re reading Professor Gates’ Introduction to Double Negative, Kristen Warner’s “In the Time of Plastic Representation,” and more. In class, Professors Davidson and Gates, and myself, as the Assistant Instructor and FI fellow, will leave the room to give students the opportunity to choose dates for their presentations and to brainstorm future readings for the syllabus based on their own interests, learning goals, and expertise. You can follow along to see how our syllabus evolves here.


One response to “It’s Not True that We’re Not Experts in “Anything””

  1. Thank you for this fabulous post and recap of our first class—-and the growing bibliography that just naturally emerges when there are structured opportunities for participation by everyone.  Everything about graduate school is designed for students to imitate experts but rarely do we show pathways for how to become an expert oneself.  Then panic sets in at dissertation time when the tables turn and suddenly one has to write a full-length work based on independent research and thinking.  
    In active learning, we try to support every student in finding that independent voice.  And by blogging on it, updating on what we are doing, we help anyone visiting our site to become an expert at who to turn a traditional class into an active, engaged learning environment. 
    PLUS . . . today, in class, we’ll be watching an amazing assortment of clips.  Cannot wait!