All classes should discuss current events to enhance learning

Subscribing to five news sites – at least one international, one domestic and one local – was my first homework assignment when I entered the School of Media and Public Affairs two years ago. This is considered the norm amongst journalism students and an important part of the SMPA curriculum, but not in other schools across campus.

It’s not unusual to see professors in SMPA use the first 10 minutes of class to discuss news coverage relevant to the topics that will be discussed in the course that day, exposing students to a wide variety of current news. For example, if a class is covering soft power – which is when a country persuades others without using force – in a Public Diplomacy class, they will discuss issues like the news coverage of the current embargo on Qatar by other Arab countries, and how this may affect future diplomatic relations between the countries. This makes sense for SMPA students, but can’t just be limited to them.

The opportunities for interesting discussions about current events are endless and allow students to relate what they are learning to real life events. Students can also benefit from the discussion that sparks from these subjects. The positive outcomes of staying informed through classmates and the professor with class discussions about related news is an already welcome practice that shouldn’t be restricted to SMPA. These discussions should be implemented in other classrooms, regardless of discipline, by dedicating the first 10 minutes of each class to current news related to the course.

The first question students might think to ask of this proposal would be why should they need to talk about issues that have nothing to do with their major. But current events don’t only pertain to politics and media. All classes should discuss the current news relevant to their field or profession. For example, students studying biology can discuss developments like a new experimental drug, and people studying business can discuss issues like how thousands of Amazon workers went on strike in England on Black Friday. There are opportunities for news discussion in even the most obscure subjects.

A majority of my SMPA classes use this method to connect topics covered in class to current events. This has occurred in almost all of my courses, including Intro to Web Production, Intro to Digital Media and Audience Development classes. I have found that these 10 minutes of sharing and discussion at the beginning of every class has drastically improved my outlook on the world and expanded my knowledge on multiple issues. For example, in my Intro to Web Design class, we brought up the topic of pollution in different countries. Someone who had actually traveled to different countries in Africa during break talked about some of the issues they saw first-hand, like waste management.

Going to class and talking with my fellow students about what is happening around the world and their opinions on the matter is an incredible learning experience. Not only does it keep me informed on a variety of issues, but it also helps me engage with people of differing opinions and prevents students from remaining inside their own ideological bubble.

Many other classes in fields with business and biology are already implementing this practice. For example, in an astronomy class that I took freshman year, we spent the beginning of one class a week discussing current events relating to outer space. But, unfortunately, this practice isn’t common in all classes. Rather than a few professors using this method to engage students, this should be something used in every classroom at GW.

It’s understandable that some disciplines may not be able to lend themselves to discussions of current events like topics in math. In these cases, rather than doing discussions of current events, they could simply have discussions once a week on any news related to the general subject, like in my astronomy class. For example, they can analyze data driven stories or look up articles based on economics on well-known business news organizations like Bloomberg News.

Professors can prep for this by making it a part of class participation, like many of my SMPA courses do. To make it easier, they can dedicate the first 10 minutes in every other class, and choose a few students to bring in an interesting article to count toward their participation grade. The rest of the students could just have the job of chipping in their opinions on the matter.

Although this might seem like a tedious task to add on to the mountain of endless homework, projects and exams, it’s a necessary one. Adding a 10-minute window every other class to discuss relevant current events gives students an example of how a topic might pan out in real life. Professors should implement different ways for students to absorb knowledge, and this method is a simple and effective one.

Raisa Choudhury, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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