Using an International Videoconference in Problem-Based Inquiry Projects: The Role of Public Voice, Audience, and Positionality, pp. 8 of 14

Research questions

The research questions that served as a basis for data collection arose in a naturalistic process of trying to develop critical civic education curriculum. The two underlying questions were:

  1. How does critically engaging with a problem-based inquiry project focused on community issues develop students’ public voice?
  2. What role does a multicultural and global audience play in the development of students’ public voice and positionality?


The discussion will focus on three aspects of the videoconference, and specifically on the discussion of marriage equality at the videoconference. First, the students developed, and better understood, their public voice in preparation for the videoconference by engaging in the process of inquiry on the issue of marriage equality. Second, the students were able to demonstrate and deepen their understanding of marriage equality through engaging with the international audience of peers. Third, the students used their public voice to acknowledge and demonstrate their new knowledge by problematizing their Macedonian peers understanding of marriage equality and the unconscious ways they were silencing the issue in Macedonia.

Developing Voice through Inquiry

We led the groups of students through each of the ten steps, and provided guidance in their inquiry for steps one-four. For some groups, it took a while to complete the first step of identifying a common community problem/issue, while for other groups the general topic was decided quickly. One group of twelve students promptly decided that they wanted to address the topic of LGBTQ civil rights. While this group was quick to identify a topic, they had to spend a lot of time researching the topic and figure out how to narrow it into an issue on which they could develop an action plan in their particular community. For the second step of the inquiry process, we helped this group of students break down the topic into concepts, and related synonyms, to research. The students’ research uncovered a lot of perspectives around the concept of marriage (e.g. civil rights, economic/tax, religious, LGBTQ), and the students decided to focus on marriage. The students split into four groups to research these perspectives further. After researching, they began step three and engaged in deliberation for one class period, with each group arguing for their respective perspective on the concept of marriage. In the deliberation, the students demonstrated they had already completed step four of the inquiry process in their initial research, by highlighting the way states and other countries had addressed the issue. At this point, the group decided that developing an action plan around distinguishing between legal (civil and economic/tax) and religious concepts of marriage would be best for their local community and context.

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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