Remembering Ashesi’s 2008 Social Research Fair
March 9, 2012, 6:22 pm
Filed under: 10th Anniversary

By Richard L. Douglass (MPH, PhD), Professor at the College of Health and Human Services at Eastern Michigan University and visiting Professor at Ashesi University College in 2007, 2008, and 2012.

In January 2008 I came to Ashesi to teach Social Research Methods to the Class of 2010, who were just sophomores.  This was something of an experiment.  Few sophomores, world-wide, ever study social research methods.  In fact, I had never taught the subject to students who weren’t, at least, advanced into their third or fourth year as undergraduates.  In most places even masters degree students do not comprehensively study social research methods.  I, myself, did not study in such a course until I became a Ph.D. student. So, we set about to see if sophomores could do it; it was a test to see just how special Ashesi students really were.

I used the same textbook that I use in a second year graduate course in Michigan.  I also framed the course on the same schedule of topics and a very comparable semester project. Most of my examination questions were directly modified from undergraduate or graduate level examinations that I have used since I first taught research methods at The University of Michigan in 1975.  We set up two sections with half of the Class of 2010 in each.  We met twice a week in crowded rooms that often lacked air conditioning.  Periodically we would stop the lectures or discussions while jets closed-in for a landing, or take off, from Kotaka.

In the second week I notified several colleagues around Ghana, all of whom were senior faculty and affiliated with graduate programs in the social sciences or public health, that I intended to put on display a “Social Research Fair” and the products of my Ashesi students would be available for public comment as the logical “publishing” conclusion to any research experience.  A frequent comment from my colleagues at these other institutions was, “Oh Richard, you must not set yourself up for disappointment!” “We don’t even do such risky things with our Ph.D. students.”  “How do you believe that undergraduates can handle such lofty goals?”  “Do you really think that they can perform at such a level?”

In response, after seeing the raw material I was working with, I told my colleagues to, “Pack up the bus, be on time, and on April 19 come and see what my sophomores can do.”  They came.

Normally, the first response of these guests to 23 completed projects, including 8 small-scale studies and the rest being technical proposals, was to feel their jaws hitting the pavement!  Here we were, the upstart new college, making big claims and challenging the status quo. And they were amazed. The posters were professionally printed. We had respected businesses who contributed financial and technical support. The courtyard was abuzz with activity.  Curious visitors from business, Ministries, NGO’s, embassies, and some parents of our students went from poster-to-poster and experienced over 90 sophomores explain how they came to their research methods design decisions, what they discovered, and what they learned. Our students explained and defended their work, in public, after one course that gave them a new way to see the world.

Of course these were Ashesi sophomores.  Apparently that made the difference.  Over 300 people were on campus that morning to see what my sophomores accomplished.  I’ll never forget it.


2 Comments so far
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I was one those sophmores :D. It was an exciting and memorable experience.

Comment by marriamb

Reblogged this on lifewithadjoa.

Comment by Adjoa

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