Role Play in Stakeholder Groups for Local Planning Issues

Dr. Jennifer Rogalsky, Associate Professor of Geography, SUNY Geneseo

Every Fall semester, I teach a course entitled Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning. The course is always filled with 40 students who are Geography majors and minors, Urban Studies minors, and Environmental Studies minors. In the course, we discuss the history of planning, the politics of planning, and many complex contemporary planning issues, such as smart growth, housing, transportation, economic development, environmental planning, and more. I struggle in every course that I teach, regarding how to get students to be more motivated to do the readings. Through this action research project, I hoped to combine contemporary and controversial planning issues with their reading assignments, encouraging them to read and prepare for every class from a particular stakeholder group’s perspective (politicians, pro-business developers, citizens against the issue, and citizens for the issue). We held a number of short class discussions from these perspectives, and held two full-class mock public hearings surrounding current local planning debates.

The goals of my action research were to see if this kind of problem-based learning, and collaboration with their peers would encourage deeper engagement in and enthusiasm for, course readings, and also improve students’ learning outcomes and achievement.

In the end, learning outcomes and achievement did improve, but I realized that I may have set the wrong goal, because instead of increasing their motivation/amount of reading, I increased class participation and motivation for class discussion. While this is still a very worthy outcome, as a result of this action research project, I have learned to more clearly align my goals with the instructions and activities I give students. Even though I didn’t always get the results I was looking for, I learned a great deal from this action research, and will certainly continue to use this activity in future semesters.

Please visit my full report Collaborative Interactive Role Play for Local Planning Issues in Geography 201 to see more about the project background, inquiry question and design, reflections and lessons learned.

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