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Honors Senior Lecturer garners national attention for classroom exercise

September 16, 2014

Professors strive for innovative classroom teaching experiences, and in the case of Irvin D. Reid Honors Senior Lecturer Justin Rex, one successful experience has garnered national attention.

Rex was featured as part of the New York Times Learning Network Blog’s week-long series “Great Ideas from Readers,” which highlighted lesson plans from teachers who use the NY Times in their classrooms. On August 27, his use of the Times’ Room for Debate opinion page from August 22, 2012 as part of a classroom activity he did with his Winter 2014 PS 1010 American Government course was highlighted. He had students use the six contributor opinions from the topic “How States Should Approach Immigration” in order to prepare them for a classroom debate about the Arizona’s immigration law, which gave law enforcement the ability to stop and detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

"I was excited an honored to have my idea featured on the NYT Learning Network Blog. This activity was inspired by the New York Times and by the new classroom design and technology available at WSU," Rex said.

Rex explained he divided students into six groups and had each group read an opinion and discuss its strengths and weaknesses. The groups were then placed into two larger groups based on the authors support or opposition of the immigration law, and proceeded to engage in three rounds of debate.

The blog’s editors gave the following rationale for highlighting his idea. “Dr. Rex’s idea of having groups of students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in a Room for Debate immigration post could be applied to any of the hundreds of other room for Debate topics. Organizing a debate on an issue featured in Room for Debate can be an effective way to help students develop and evaluate sophisticated arguments,” they wrote.

According to the Times, Room for Debate is an online feature that invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues, to teach argumentative writing and discussion skills in their classrooms.