Students Explore Issues of Human Development, Education, and Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa in 360º That Includes Trip to Ghana

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 4:23 pm.

In the Spring of 2012 a group of students and three faculty members will engage in a 360º course cluster exploring issues of human development, education, and culture with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The 360º includes a trip to the Titagya school in rural Ghana.

360º: Learning and Narrating Childhoods consists of three courses plus an optional independent study. Each course offers a different disciplinary perspective (developmental psychology, education, literary studies) on the broad issues this 360º will address.

Faculty members taking part in the 360° are Director of the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program Alice Lesnick, Chair of the French and Francophone Studies Department Pim Higginson, and Professor of Psychology Robert Wozniak.

“The goal is to have each course act independently while also building a transdisciplinary process that will create exciting connections between the three sections and a richer series of overarching perspectives,” says Lesnick. “To encourage this bridging process, several combined meetings will be organized throughout the semester in order to discuss some of the common ground that is being covered and any areas that we have discovered that bring the three units together.”

Students interested in 360º: Learning and Narrating Childhoods must preregister and complete this questionnaire at the time of preregistration. This questionnaire must be completed and submitted to the instructors by the end of Tuesday, November 1 (midnight). Incomplete or late submissions cannot be considered.

Students must register for all three course in the 360°, and one additional course outside the cluster. Enrollment is limited to 15 students. Students accepted to take part in the 360º will be notified by noon on Monday, November 7th.

A key part of this course consists of a trip to the Titagya school in rural Ghana.

“While this is tremendously exciting and should represent a series of opportunities for dialogue with both students and teachers, it also will represent a challenge for those who haven’t traveled to the developing world,” says Higginson. “Students will be asked to be adaptable, to be open-minded, and to get a number of vaccines before leaving!”

360º: Learning and Narrating Childhoods Course Descriptions:

Literacies and Education [Lesnick] Students will explore the experience of learning to speak, read, and write in and outside of school. Using a “multiliteracies” framework, students will consider literacy learning as a process of ongoing personal, cultural, and political negotiation among and across people’s ways with words. Informed by the rich body of empirical and theoretical research in this field, students will revisit their own literacy learning, carry out praxis fieldwork in a classroom or other education-related setting, and develop curricular interventions to instigate and empower others’ multiliteracies. Important as a context for this creative work will be a deep study of the force of bureaucratic literacies and standardization in contemporary childhood and, indeed, across the lifespan. The goal of this study will be to foster analytic depth and resilient imagination as resources in working the tensions among human and economic development for individuals and communities.

Culture and Development [Wozniak] Students will focus on the nature of culture as a system of material, symbolic, and practical contexts for human development and on the enculturation process as one of becoming progressively more like-minded with one’s group(s) through the internalization of ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. Students will examine theories of the development of the social mind, the acquisition of literacy, human narrativity, and the construction of cultural meaning and apply what they learn to an analysis of critical developmental transitions in the construction of the self as it occurs in various cultural contexts.

Teaching the Postcolony: Schooling in African Fiction [Higginson] Students will examine a small selection of novels and films from Francophone and Anglophone Africa to gain insight into the multiple and often contradictory forces that dictate the African child’s experience of education (broadly defined) in a postcolonial context. This course will be about the children whose lives are represented. It will also analyze how such representations are constructed; the ways in which the writers themselves process the traumatic experiences of education in a complex and alienating educational environment too often designed elsewhere, for others.

360° is a new interdisciplinary experience that engages several aspects of a topic or theme, giving students an opportunity to investigate thoroughly and thoughtfully a multitude of perspectives. A cohort of students takes a cluster of classes over the course of a semester, focusing on the history, economic concerns, cultural intersections and political impact of an era, decision, event, policy, or important scientific innovation. 360° participants hone their arguments and insights through writing and research, develop strategies for teamwork that push the limits of their talents and creativity, and work with professors and scholars to promote big-picture thinking.

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