Using an International Videoconference in Problem-Based Inquiry Projects: The Role of Public Voice, Audience, and Positionality, pp. 5 of 14

Conceptual Lenses

This article will use three conceptual lenses to understand the underlying educational outcomes of the students’ projects: positionality, public voice, and audience. Since the students’ projects were student-driven, and developed from their own interests, their positionality was central to their engagement throughout the project. Students used their ethical frameworks to determine what constituted a problem or issue in their community. Each group of students chose an issue that focused on injustices toward individuals in their community, and highlighted a personal ethical dilemma for members of the group. The religious engagement of students in both groups helped prioritize their ethic of care for people in their community (Noddings, 2005), as both religious organizations, Catholic and LDS, focus on helping individuals in their communities. Some Catholic students especially drew upon a social justice lens to rationalize the need for addressing their particular issues (e.g. immigration). Once they identified a problem or issue to address, they developed an ethical position on that problem or issue in relation to society, and assessed how they could potentially take ethical action on the issue in their community. In this way, their positionality was central to understanding their ethical stance because they considered their own positions on complex issues before considering authentic ways of addressing the issue to benefit everyone in their community. By demonstrating a “caring reasoning” for their community that values understanding differences among people, they were better able to understand themselves (Thayer-Bacon, 2003), as well as their own positionality. Positionality, as Maher and Tetreault (1993) write, represents:

Gender, race, class, and other aspects of our identities are markers of relational positions rather than essential qualities. Knowledge is valid when it includes an acknowledgment of the knower’s specific position in any context, because changing contextual and relational factors are crucial for defining identities and our knowledge in any given situation. (p. 118)

For the group of students, whose project is the focus of this article, they demonstrated that gender, ethnicity, religion, and age were factors in choosing their issue and how they engaged the concepts related to their issue throughout the project. They decided to approach the topic of marriage equality and their interest arose from their own experiences, ethical dilemmas, and positionalities related to the issue at home, school, and in the community.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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