“Authentic learning activities have real world relevance, set problems for students that are ill-defined and complex, provide opportunities for students to examine and address the task from multiple perspectives, and give students ample opportunities to collaborate, reflect on their learning, and integrate their knowledge in various ways.” This, according to Bass and Elmendorf is the essence of authentic learning. My task for my two groups of students taking Urban Black Psychology is to examine, reflect on, and share ideas about an issue that has real relevance and meaning to their lives – where and how they live.
Students will be giving a video essay on their communities. They will be examining the key elements of their areas and will be considering a variety of points including what type of housing it is, what is the condition of the area, what types of businesses exists, what the neighborhood is known for, what its positive and/or negative aspects are, what, if any, “ethnic” elements exist, and how they compare with some of the urban black communities that we have discussed in class. Students will be exploring stereotypes that exist about urban Black communities and will critically reflect on how their neighborhood compares and contrasts with the images we have seen and talked about in class.
Thus far, students have been engaged in their own reflection of their neighborhood by writing essays about their communities (using guiding questions that they were provided with). The next step will be for them to shoot a short (3-4 minute) video of their neighborhood, which they will post on You Tube or other platform that we agree upon. Students from both sections will then view the work of students in the other class and blog about what they learned.
One thing that I noticed immediate in one section of my class was real enthusiasm about the task itself. A number of students expressed a desire to create a video immediately! However, one student was reluctant to embark on the task. He expressed concerns about videotaping or photographing his neighborhood for safety reasons. His classmates, a number of whom volunteered to accompany him when he went on his shoot, immediately showed support. A community connection was being created before my very eyes!! It was lovely to see this obvious desire to support their classmate. We then discussed people working in groups if there were concerns around safety, but this idea was rejected. Students expressed wanting to capture their own communities. These students appeared to be taking a sense of ownership of their community; perhaps wanting to present/share something that they felt a real connection to.
Time will tell how this project will unfold. For now, I am riding the wave of their excitement, and feeling positive about having developed an activity that has meaning for them. One student seems prepared to dispel the myth of his neighborhood, which he believes gets a bad rap and is negatively stereotyped. I look forward to hearing his and others’ voices, and gaining insights to the multiple perspectives that will be shared.