Taking a social-constructionist approach to teacher-learner relations it is proposed that a teaching strategy based on the principles of a bingo game is a meaningful way to energise the structured lecture environment. Designed in the first instance to facilitate students' understanding of substantive information, the game also enables teachers to elicit reactions to the process which serve as teaching points about the theory and practice of social research. In the following we draw together strands of sociological and educational theory to demonstrate the pedagogical value of this game approach.
The question of structure and agency, or individuation and community, has been the central concern of classical and contemporary scholars of society alike. It is however, notoriously difficult to explain to students, and even more tricky to model in any meaningful way in the lecture situation. One of the most elaborate and powerful attempts at a theoretical synthesis of these forces is found in the work of Bourdieu. In this presentation we seek to link Bourdieu's theory on the limits of objectivism and subjectivism with contemporary approaches to learning. We argue that Bourdieu offers a neat rationale for the game technique. Not only does our 'Bingo' game enable individual practices to be placed within a space of social structure, it also allows for critical reflection on the nature of social scientific practice.
The strategy requires students to call up personal experiences and life choices in the process of 'playing the game'. It therefore fosters deep learning through relevancy to individual lives and the provision of an enjoyable learning environment. A collation of student responses is used to encourage reflexivity, both in regard to one's own cultural capital and also with respect to the research process. Accordingly, the 'game' brings together relevant personal experience, sociological theory and method as a coherent whole, generating a more meaningful and active engagement with the material. We suggest that the game is transferable to a variety of social science orientations and propose that it can be used with both small and very large classes. The game strategy was evaluated using a short questionnaire to elicit students' opinions about its relevance, usefulness and its quality as a teaching tool.
Before going on to develop our arguments, we shall briefly describe the nature of the 'Bingo Game'. The Bingo Game is an holistic, experiential strategy that provokes personal reflection. It was first used in a large, first year sociology class to introduce ideas about sociology of the body. The game could best be described as organised like a cross between the real game of 'Bingo' and a traditional class survey. We claim however, that the pedagogic implications of the game strategy are far more significant than a class survey could hope to accomplish. The game has a number of sub-games, each devoted to substantive issues related to the theme of 'Sociology of the Body', for example, adornment, body image and notions of pain and pleasure.
The teaching team devised a series of statements related to the sub-game. These statements were dichotomised so that later, students could be categorised as being one kind or another. For example, questions/statements in the body image category were labelled as 'healthy', or 'unhealthy'. One statement for the 'healthy' category was "Do you have a regular exercise program?" for the 'unhealthy' category, "Do you think you spend a lot of time worrying about your body size?" In playing the game, these statements are called out and subsequently responded to by the individuals as 'Yes' or 'No'.
Participants award themselves one point for each 'yes' response, until they fill in all of the eight blank squares on their 'Bingo card'. A bingo card looks much like an un-filled crossword puzzle with filled and blank squares. Each sub-game is completed when a participant who has filled in all blank squares calls out 'bingo'. Later, students' responses are categorised, counted and the results displayed as a histogram, and they are able to reflect on their position with respect to others. Using discussion and interactive processes teachers are able to elicit reactions concerning the adequacy of category constructions and validity of questions. These reactions/reflections can then be discussed with respect to the issues of sociological method. Differences of opinion are used inductively to examine sociological theories of the body and facilitate students' exploration and understanding of other issues dear to the heart of sociology. In a recent class where students were asked to design questions for the category 'clothing' along the lines 'functional'-'expressive', one female student proffered the statement 'The label is everything' for the 'expressive' category. This drew a categorical disagreement from one male member of the class who insisted that in the work context (with which he was familiar) suits with a designer label were absolutely essential to one's acceptance. This dialogue provided an excellent example for group discussions around social stratification in terms of class, gender, economics and so on.
We shall elaborate various aspects of the game throughout this paper, commenting on how the game enables us to encourage active learning (Jenkins, 1992) and bring together important aspects of the teaching/learning process.
The second strand of Bourdieu's work we draw upon are the concepts and strategies he employs in order to theorise the mutual interplay of culture and everyday action. The foundations of Bourdieu's theoretical framework are again best seen in his anthropological writings (1977b), but were most forcefully applied in his studies of education, artistic practice, homo academicus and taste. In this paper, we make use of his ideas about the habitus, field and capital. Bourdieu's idea of habitus is a theoretical lever for understanding the spontaneity of human practice, and its reconciliation with taken-for-granted schemes which have a structuring capacity. It is classically understood (Bourdieu 1990) as a set of schemes or principles which generate and organise human practice in a flexible, adaptive manner. The habitus is formed by past experiences and is structured by a set of class conditions, by which individuals generate procedures and paths to follow without necessarily having to abide by strict rules (Bourdieu 1990). Literally, the habitus is held to organise, generate and condition thoughts, expressions, actions and opinions. Importantly, it is 'embodied', in that it is a mode of feeling and thinking that is thoroughly experienced in the body.
Related to this, Bourdieu's notion of 'fields' of cultural practice (e.g. academia, cultural tastes and cultural goods, photography) shows how culture and its practice is differentiated, and how specific resources are enacted depending on the nature of the field. Bourdieu is careful to point out that fields are also sites of struggle, structured by a set of objective conditions which impose certain sets of cultural rules upon agents. The ability of agents to successfully navigate particular fields is strongly supposed by Bourdieu to relate to various distributions of cultural, economic, social and symbolic capital. Success in a cultural field thus involves the practical mastery of multiple strategies, using quotients of types of capital.
In the first instance, at the centre of the game strategy is a logic that allows for subjective (phenomenological) positions and objective (socially structured) patterns to be elicited and experienced at the same time. Through the survey component of the game, participants are offered the opportunity to reflect on their personal responses; while in another component of the game they were encouraged to contextualise their personal responses within the objective, abstracted context of all others' responses. In addition, by participating as both survey respondents and as data analysts of the aggregate group responses, the game situates students in the roles of 'researched' and 'researcher'. We claim that such a pedagogic accomplishment is analogous to Bourdieu's double reflexive manoeuvre, where researchers are able to reflect on their academic-cum-scientific position as 'objective observers', relative to that of the research 'subjects'. The strategy thus introduces students to the 'role' of social researcher - with its attendant accoutrements of cultural capital; but, it also manages to raise issues associated with being a subject of social research, the normative issues linked to responding to survey questions, and the analysis of aggregate data.
Discussions which arise from the experiences of playing the game and being assigned to relatively arbitrary categories, encourage the visibility of cultural capital, and help to concretise the abstract notion of habitus. The issue of capital is important to the classroom reality, and our experience with using the game strategy shows that 'capital' is apparent across numerous contexts, or 'fields'. The broad, contextual field of tertiary education cannot be ignored in the first instance. Some dimensions of this field include the contingencies associated with becoming a social researcher, coping with the challenges new knowledge presents, as well as sensitivity to the fact that others will have different forms of cultural capital, articulated in unique ways. At another level - returning to issues of subjectivity and objectivity - cultural capital is seen in the types of responses one makes to the 'body show' questions, and in its aggregate distribution across the class. In turn, the nature of the game strategy allows these forms of capital to be displayed across various social fields, including body practices, clothing, technology and orientations to pleasure and pain.
Bourdieu's concepts enable us to argue that the bingo game strategy at once models 'real world' activity, that is, the interaction of agency and structure in relation to cultural choice, as well as allowing us theoretical resources to use the same strategy to foster the educational process. In this sense the classroom, is its own 'cultural field' with a characteristic set of structure/agency issues; for example, the relationships of students to lecturer/s, of students to the material to be learned, of one student to other students who structure their worlds differently.
In the field of education the lecturer's agency is involved in facilitating students' understanding of the substantive, theoretical and methodological material which at the same time is bound by structural constraints. Such constraints are inherent in the boundaries drawn around disciplinary areas, the inherited body of knowledge that separates theory from practice and methodological issues, and a tradition that values rational knowledge often to the exclusion of affective and spiritual knowledge.
Students' agency is bound up with understanding aspects of the topic of study, examining the logic of arguments and integrating the material with their unique conceptual schemas and devising ways to apply their understandings in new contexts. However, aspects of knowledge, for example theory, method and content, are frequently taught in isolation from one another, thus removing the necessary connective (and therefore meaning generating) links that enable students to make sense of the material. Further, theories and methods are delivered as the thoughts and insights of others (experts) removed in space and time from students' present reality. If life experience is invoked, it is seldom drawn from the stated verstehen of individuals in the audience.
Both students and lecturers then, are engaged in a process where subjective processes (agency) are forced to engage objective material constraints and/or enablings. The body of literature theorising student approaches to learning provides insights into the nature of learning, recognising that, in fact, adult learners come to tertiary study with preferred modes for engaging structure/agency issues in the educational context. Models of teaching also highlight the ways teachers understand the educative context, Renshaw (1995) for example, identifies four broad approaches to the teaching enterprise: the transmission model, the constructivist model, the metacognitive model and the sociocultural model. However, regardless of their preferred approaches to material, teachers in turn make decisions about approaches to teaching and research within broader institutional structures over which they may have little control. Delivering knowledge, in pre-digested form as if it were a well worked through given, belies the reality of life as lived, not to mention the whole discussion about contested knowledges. Nevertheless, there is some wisdom to be learned and as educators we want to ensure that students leave the university equipped with enduring concepts and skills that can be adapted to the many work contexts in which they will find themselves.
It is usually recognised that that the 'what' and 'how' of learning need to be considered together (Ramsden, 1992; Marton et al. 1993). This means that teachers need to pay particular attention to the ways they help students understand what needs to be learned and the ways that teaching approach, learning processes and disciplinary knowledges interact. We aim to develop learning with understanding, or deep learning, fostering the development of knowledge that remains accessible throughout a person's lifetime. At the same time, as the Student Approaches to Learning literature demonstrates, tertiary students approach the learning task with ready made preferences, and with either with deep or surface orientations to course materials. These findings support Bourdieu's idea of the habitus.
In addition, pre-dispositional structures are to some extent modified by what students judge to be the requirements of the course of study and the bureaucratic processes of the Department as a whole (Sadlo, 1995) - the equivalent of Bourdieu's idea of field. It behoves educators to devise ways of prompting emotional engagement with the material and of stimulating intrinsic motivation from students so that they will approach the substantive content of a subject in ways that promote lifelong learning.
Summarising the literature, Sadlo (1995) identifies the multiplicity of features that are involved in a deep approach to learning. Initially students show an interest in the subject matter for its own sake or for its vocational relevance. The learner thinks about the information attempting to understand it and relate it to previous knowledge, personal life and everyday experience. This also involves a search for meaning, to structure content and to reach personal understanding. With understanding, the learner realises that studies deal with some aspect of the real world and therefore that study leads to an understanding of that real world. In attempting to make these connections, the learner actively interacts with content and tries to relate evidence to conclusions, to examine the logic of an argument and to relate the evidence to previously held beliefs.
We argue that the bingo game strategy encourages/provides a context which at once encourages and enables the free play of many of these deep learning dynamics. Firstly, if as Foucault (1988) argues, the modern 'self' is an ongoing artistic and ethical project we can assume that any activity that asks people to reflect on their constructions of themselves and their tastes will elicit a level of interest, especially if this is then to be compared with the self constructions of others. In the context of bingo, as applied to the sociology of the body, students have to make decisions about the ways they view their bodies, how they adorn them, perceive them, subject them to pleasure or pain. Later, they have the opportunity to locate their body practices alongside those of others and evaluate them in the context of some normative description for that category of body practice. In both small and whole group discussions that follow the game students are encouraged to question, argue and discuss in the context of the realities of others that may be different from their own. They therefore are engaging in a meaning-making dialogue that will raise issues of difference related to social positions - for example, along the lines of race, class, age, gender - and issues associated with the ways these differences impact the ways we view knowledge, what we accept and reject as legitimate knowledge, and their impact on the ways we do research.
Such dialogue, generated from the experience of 'playing' the game and dis/agreement with others is a real world exercise. It not only makes visible what 'others' really do, but may challenge or broaden previously held beliefs and values. Through inductive processes and small group discussion the teacher draws relevant issues from the students' discussions and relates their observations to existing theories relating to the subject matter of the session. In this way students are getting a view of theoretical concepts from the ground up rather than from the top down.
Transferable problem-solving skills are an essential desired outcome of the educative encounter. In the bingo game strategy 'problems' are actually generated as students play the game and discuss the outcomes. Further, there may be as many 'problems' as there are students. What we provide through class/group discussion and theory are generic ways of thinking about these problems and the reasons they occur in the first place. Some reasons/answers lie in the confrontation between individual agency and structuring forces in our social interactions. Others lie in the ways knowledge is packaged. At the same time we would add that the actual teaching-learning interaction is part of the problem generating/solving process. Experience is not only something prior to the lecture/student moment, brought in as it were from the outside and some 'thing' that the lecture material has to 'relate' to. Experience is also operative and changing within the educative environment. We maintain that the actual experience of playing the bingo game and using that experience to 'do social research' and also to critique the assumptions and structure of the game questions, creates an educative context in which the conditions necessary for deep learning are fostered.
If, as we hope and plan for, the playing of the game leads to spontaneous critique of the game categories, resulting class and small group discussion can be lead to examine the contingencies of creating questions for survey research and a discussion of the notions of reliability and validity. Students' responses to the games are tallied and entered on a histogram. Reading the histogram provides the teacher with class generated data from which to generate hypotheses, thus demonstrating the process of sociological method and theory building.
Students are placed in a situation where they are able to position themselves vis-ˆ-vis groups of others. Thus the move is made from subjective engagement to objective comparison and then back to a possible reflection on personal experience - the double reflexive manoeuvre. The moment of using the structures of the habitus and deploying features of one's cultural capital involves interacting with new material introduced by the differences made visible in comparison with others as well as with the theoretical content that provides ways of interpreting those differences.
The development of the survey instrument was undertaken by the lecturing and tutoring staff on the course. The instrument design takes into account Beatty, Benefield and Beatty et al's (1991: 164) conceptual discussion of the framework for evaluating adult learning, and a thematic analysis of qualitative feedback gathered from an evaluation of the same game strategy a year earlier. Students were presented with statements about the session which were related to the content of the session, mode of delivery and personal relevance. They were asked to indicate their response to each statement on a five point Likert scale. At the end of the survey students were asked to rate the overall effectiveness of the game session on a seven point scale.
Here, we present results for five scales designed to measure the efficacy of various aspects of the game strategy. Standardised means for these scales are presented in Table I.
(1-5 scale, 5=strongly agree)
|Cluster 1: Teaching method
1.1 Lecture delivery
1.2 Effective delivery of content
1.3 Linking content to sociological method
|Cluster 2: Student reaction to the game approach
2.1 Immediate and emotional reaction to the game
|Cluster 3: Assessment of overall effectiveness of the session
3.1 Perception of content and relevance
The results in Table I show that students assessed all aspects of the game positively. The first three scales are built around the technical aspects of the teaching method. Scale 1.1 focuses solely on the leader's delivery and management of the session. Statements grouped in this section included, "The material in the Body Show was well structured" and "Instructions for the section were clear". On this 5 level scale the strategy rated a mean of 3.7. Scale 1.2 indicates how highly students rated the efficacy of the game at presenting course content, for example "This session clearly demonstrated how sociologists study the body". One student commented, "It gave a whole new perspective to the sociological study of the body, and sociology itself". Our overall mean rating on this scale was 3.5. Scale 1.3 shows students' rating of the effectiveness of the technique for linking content of the game to how sociologists might research that content (i.e. the sociological method). One observation from a student indicated that, "The questions were relevant and easy to answer. It was interesting to see the class histogram and it got me thinking about the way I perceive myself". The average mean rating for responses on this scale was 3.4.
The second group of variables measured the students' immediate, emotional reaction to the game strategy. Scale 2.1 includes responses to statements such as 'The Body Show was a fun change from the lecture format of this course' and 'I find activities like the bingo Game patronising'. This cluster of variables received the most strongly positive result gaining a mean of 4.2. Students commented that, "It was fun - I was eager to see how I turned out. It was also a good break from the usual lecture format"
The third set of variables measured student impressions of the overall effectiveness of the game. Scale 3.1 was developed from such statements as, 'The topics covered in the Bingo game were relevant to me', 'I remember more material from the body show than I usually do at the end of a lecture'. The rating for this section was 3.7. Over sixty percent (63%) of the students agreed with the statement that 'I think that I will remember more material from the Body Show than I usually do at the end of a lecture'. Examples of students' comments at the end of their questionnaires included, "I learned more in this relaxed, expressive style than I would from simply writing for 2hrs from OHT's" and "It was a fun lecture and I felt as though I could relate more to the topics because I am often worried about the way I look". The questionnaire results and students' free comments are heartening given Gibbs' (1992: 16) reporting that active use of material during a lecture may be beneficial to long term retention.
Finally, students rated the overall effectiveness of the game, on a seven-point scale. Over ninety percent (92%) of students rated the game satisfactory or better with nearly a quarter (24.6%) of the whole class rating the game 'outstanding' or just 'below outstanding'.
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Woodward, Ian, Coco, Angela, Shaw, Kirstyn and Peake, Andrew. (2000). "Games people play". In Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference. Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/abstracts/woodward-abs.html
|Contact details: Ian Woodward, University of Queensland|
Phone (07) 3365 2486 Fax (07) 3365 1544 Email I.Woodward@mailbox.uq.edu.au
Please cite as: Coco, A., Woodward, I., Lupton, G., Peake, A. and Shaw, K. (2001). Bourdieu, learning theory and a new game for action learning in lectures. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 154-164. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/coco.html