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Sunday, October 7, 2012

CEP 818: How Do I Love Thee: Patterning

The cognitive tool of patterning can assist in problem solving.By recognizing patterns in math, language, and even society-one can better "see" and understand the problem and potential solution(s). My original "problems" were based on the topics of social disparities like the education and health care gaps due to social status (ethnicity, gender, income, etc.)

Patterns in social equality or inequality through charts and graphs are very easy to find online. However, part of teaching social justice issues is connecting the data with the emotional side of the student. While I'm guessing many activists are "born" in current social problem classes, I think it is because the student is able to see the patterns in history on their own doing and not because of a stellar bar graph. How can I make these patterns real for them? Showing them this: 

My guess is not.  

I looked at patterns of injustice in America. One very clear “pattern” is social classes. In a class system, the social injustices are felt most in the impoverished populations as well as the minorities (sometimes overlapping).

After reviewing the educational disparities among men and women and ethnic minorities, it hit me. I thought about graduating class photos. I found on Harvard’s website that they had law school graduating class photos all the way back to the late 1800’s. Seeing the people and being able to recognize their race and gender while they are all in a pattern (in rows lined up) would be a great way to illustrate the disparities in education.

To make the patterns connect for them, I believe it is necessary to use examples that have a human connection. What better way to connect than with photos of actual humans? 

Visually, these photos represent the statistics regarding these disparities over time. It is obvious that Harvard (like many other colleges) had mostly male Caucasian/white graduates for years. I had put these photos into a powerpoint presentation and purposefully kept the side bar language in each slide the same. Because the issue doesn't change over time-only the pattern of outcomes.

Initially, this activity seemed very daunting to me.  However, I did explore patterning from numerous viewpoints which helped me to have a much better understanding of the tool itself. I ventured to other students blogs, read various sociological perspectives on disparity patterns over time, and paid much closer attention to the creative ways that academics were presenting their information. Most of the "white papers" I read involved charts and graphs and some had no visual representation whatsoever of their topic. I can see where presenting this type of subject matter utilizing patterning would be very beneficial to many students and help inspire them to present their information creatively as well.

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