4 Context Hunt

Arley Cruthers

Activity Guidelines

Suggested Course Level

Both lower-level and upper-level undergraduate courses.

Activity Purpose

  • Students will reflect on the university as a context and begin to think critically about all of the spoken and unspoken assumptions surrounding the university.
  • Students will also practice their research/ analysis skills.

Materials Required

  • Handout
  • Chalkboard / whiteboard

Activity Instructions

  1. Come up with a list of questions about the university. You could also have students generate these. A good question is one that students can find some answers to in 10-15 minutes. The ones I use are:
    • Whose land are we on? Can you find examples of Indigenous knowledge around campus?
    • Take a short walk around campus and see how many technologies you can list. How many were you specifically taught to use when you came to the university?
    • How is a teacher expected to act?
    • How is a student expected to act?
    • What kind of nature do you see on campus? Why is it there? Who maintains it?
    • Does the university have “school spirit?” What are people who are part of the university community expected to be proud of? If you take a short walk around campus, are there any signs/posters celebrating something?
    • What is the history of the university?
    • Who is included at the university? Who is left out?
    • Look at the university’s policies. How can you get into trouble here? What are you not supposed to do?
  2. Write one question on the top of a page and leave the rest of the page for student notes.
  3. Break students into groups of 2 or 3. Give them each a question and ask them to spend 10 minutes trying to answer it.
  4. On half of the whiteboard/ chalkboard write “Unspoken,” then on the other half write “Spoken.”
  5. When students return, ask them to sort their findings into “spoken” (things about the university that someone specifically told us) and “unspoken” (things that no one talks about or that we had to figure out for ourselves) and write them on the chalkboard.
  6. Use the debrief questions to reflect on the context of the university. How much is unspoken? What values/beliefs/assumptions does the university have? How do students learn about the context? What misunderstandings did you have about the context of this particular university?

Debrief Questions / Activities

  • What was your most surprising finding?
  • How much of what you found was spoken vs. unspoken?
  • What sort of things are spoken?
  • What sort of things are unspoken?
  • What does this say about what the university values?
  • How do new students learn the context of the university? How did you learn?

Tags: audience analysis / context analysis, research and documentation, critical thinking, discussion, hands-on, small group, self-reflection


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