Karen Powell Sears, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Denison University

Question: How can students’ demonstrate and share their learning about social problems beyond the classroom setting? In a Sex and Gender class, students create a digital tool-kit that serves as a public awareness resource for both analyzing and solving social problems of interest to members of a college community.

In my Sex and Gender in Society course, students were asked to identify a social issue related to gender, and create a digital audio-visual campaign aimed at promoting greater social awareness of this issue among a target audience. The digital toolkit assignment objective was to inform community members about the social relevance of the problem, and recommend practical and institutional solutions. Students worked in assigned groups to 1) identify, define and describe the gender issue of concern; 2) define the audience and objective of the public awareness campaign; 3) develop concepts and learning tools that inform the target audience about the social problem in the form of a short documentary; 4) create an original artistic element that illustrates the problem; 5) develop solutions for the social problem that are informed by current research and best practice evidence; and 6) integrate these learning tools into a digital platform that is available to the Denison community.

Students created elements or “pages” to their digital tool kit at assigned dates throughout the semester, adding topic information to the social media platform of their choice. In order to prepare students for this project they received instruction about 1) the available technology and utilities that can be used to support varied project objectives and designs, and 2) methods of effective peer review/feedback expectations and strategies for critiquing the digital tool-kits.

Each group presented its digital tool-kit to the class three weeks prior to the end of the semester and received peer feedback for each presentation. Groups then revised their digital project based upon professor and peer feedback and made their final public service campaigns available to the Denison community on a shared digital platform.

Here are two examples of the students’ digital took-kits show the various formats that students created.


Klea Kurti, Jayla Johnson, Giselle Hernandez

Topic: #NotYourKeeper (Domestic violence awareness)


Julia Northrop, Laura Robinson, Gabby Quesnell

Topic: Sex Work, Stigma, and Society


As part of a formative evaluation of this project, students were given a pre- and post-assessment to measure their knowledge of current gender issues and existing efforts to address the problem. Most students were unable to describe specific gender issues and interventions at the start of the semester. In the post assessment, students demonstrated more complex knowledge of gender and sex inequalities, awareness of social movements aimed at addressing these problems and possible solutions. The project allowed students to acquire new skills and apply their course knowledge in a non-traditional learning context. Students were also able to develop substantial digital literacy, knowledge of global gender inequalities and related social movements. The success of this project prompted me to add the social awareness digital toolkit assignment to other courses. Specifically, I have added a blogging component to my spring 2017 “People, Culture and Society” course. I also presented this teaching innovation at the Association of Black Sexologist and Clinicians conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October 2016. The presentation was entitled, “Teaching Social Justice in the Era of Trayvon and Trump: The Role of Positionality and Transparency in the Academy.” The presentation highlighted the utility of the digital toolkit as a curricular strategy to promote student awareness, civic responsibility and agency within local and national contexts of social inequality.

Please contact me for additional information or discussion, searsk@denison.edu.

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