Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

Hip Hop as an Educator’s Tool

In Faculty, Teaching on May 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

blog_hiphopSawyer

By Don Sawyer, Instructor of Sociology

I recently had the privilege to present at the first New England Regional Conference on Teaching Sociology on April 13 at Stonehill College.  This conference was sponsored by the Association for Humanist Sociology; the Society for the Study of Social Problems -Teaching Social Problems Division; and the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Stonehill College.  This one-day conference was dedicated to best practices in teaching sociology (and social science in general for affiliated faculty in Criminology, Anthropology, Political Science and other interdisciplinary fields). The Conference featured traditional paper and poster sessions, a discussion panel of distinguished teachers in the social science disciplines, and open-group discussions oriented around important themes related to teaching in the social sciences.

I was selected to present: “Step Your Game Up: Teaching Sociology through the Art of the Hip-Hop Battle.” Sociology has many theoretical concepts instructors across the globe attempt to get undergraduate students to grasp. Mills’ “sociological imagination” is one of the most basic concepts we present to budding sociologists with the hopes that they will open their minds to the unlimited possibilities of the field of sociology. However, as technology, popular culture, and our students evolve, instructors must create new and innovative approaches to reach students and keep them interested in the subject matter. My paper focused on an innovative approach being piloted to get students to actively participate in explication, critique, and debate. In my Sociology of Hip-Hop course, with 20 students of varying academic majors, I used the format of the Hip-Hop Rap Battle to engage students in critical sociological analysis. Over the course of the semester, I wanted to understand how the art of the hip-hop battle could be used to create an environment of deeper learning. My presentation described the exercises and the methods used to get the students engaged and ready for battle. Although this approach was used for a course on hip-hop, the format can be used in any course where active student involvement is desired. In addition to the course on campus, I piloted similar methods in a high school program aiming to engage students at risk of dropping out. With its increased visibility and enormous multicultural following, hip-hop cultural practices can prove valuable when attempting to reach students.

My presentation fit well with the other great topics offered during the conference.  If this first meeting was any indication of what will come in the future, we have a bright future ahead of us.  This conference will allow faculty from across the region to come together periodically and sharpen our skills.  Be on the lookout for an announcement for the second annual conference.

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