Using an International Videoconference in Problem-Based Inquiry Projects: The Role of Public Voice, Audience, and Positionality, pp. 9 of 14

The twelve students developed their problem-based inquiry project around the topic of marriage, and specifically, defining marriage in a both a legal and religious way. The goal of their project was to better educate their community on marriage in the legal sense, as a means to justify marriage equality. The issue was personally relevant to all of the students because they each felt a split between their own personal views on marriage equality and how their family and religion viewed marriage equality. The students were influenced by two dominant religions in their community: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Catholic Church. Therefore, all twelve of the students noted that through this project they realized they use, or didn’t use, their public voice in different ways at home, church, and school. For example, Tim described his realization:

One day when we were working on the project it hit me, I have like a filter, when I talk about Gay rights at home, that I don’t have at school…but like I can talk about Gay rights at home but not marriage – that’s going too far. (FGI3, p. 3)

Anna followed Tim’s comments and said, “the project made so much sense to me, it represented my two selves or two worlds, family and school” (FGI3, p. 3). In this way, the project helped the students better understand their public voice and how they used it to negotiate two seemingly different worlds regarding the issue of marriage equality.

The ‘two worlds’ that students identified were not so clearly delineated in their minds at the beginning of the project. Sam noted this in the focus group discussion, “Yeah, when Carl mentioned doing marriage equality, I was like what is the issue? And then Maria, was like, what does your dad think about it? And I said I don’t know, and I’m not going to ask him” (FGI1, p. 5). The students all mentioned that they wanted to focus on marriage equality for their project, but they had a difficult time developing a question and thinking about a potential action plan for addressing marriage equality in their community. Through the development of the project the students realized that they would have been comfortable just researching and discussing marriage equality at school, but since the outcome of their project was to take action in the community, the students felt much more constrained. The students did not give up though and they thought of a strategy that would negotiate their two worlds. This is when they decided to define marriage in both of their worlds, and try to help their families and religious communities understand that everyone has a right to be married as a citizen of their state and country, even if it is not acceptable as members of their religion. Danny noted the groups’ realization, “It was funny, it hit us that maybe we could cite that church and state thing, or law, and look at it that way. It made sense to us. We separate the two” (FGI1, p. 2). The students spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to use their public voice most effectively, as a result of thinking about the two worlds they negotiate, regarding the issue of marriage equality. The impetus to think about the effective use of the public voice through the project occurred as a result of thinking about the audience for their community action.

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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