Learning Resources Bank

Knowledge production: Fact construction and learning exercise

Many students I teach are first year students from multicultural backgrounds and come to uni with an expectation that I will tell them what's important to know; rather than perceived to be a learning facilitator, I'm often presumed to be a 'fact bestower'. Hence, students struggle to understand what critical sociological thought means. This exercise helps prepare students, via practice, for their essay writing later in the subject where we expect critical engagement with topics:

1. Lecturer chooses a popularly described event covered by news media or another major social institution (e.g. medicine, law, education) and asks students to individually list all the 'facts' about it

2. Students collectively discuss how all those 'facts' came to be known - by whom, under what circumstances, etc.

3. Lecturer uses the Socratic method of questioning to get students to critically explore how and if other facts could have been used, known, etc., to explain the event (i.e. a crime)

4. Once discussion of the example is exhausted, student-student and student-lecturer dialogue continues to consider the sociological context (environment, demographic factors, norms, socialisation, process, values, cultural expectations, etc.) that are implicit and explicit in the representation and creation of the issues to explore the social nature of knowledge/fact production.

This can be a tutorial activity or an online forum.