Designing a coures with a specific student body in mind
In designing the course on Nation & Immigration for American University (AU) and then for the university in Bochum, Germany, I considered my students’ backgrounds and interests. Students at both schools lived in an urban and socially diverse environment, and had usually been exposed to people and cultures from many parts of the world. AU is known for its outreach into the D.C. community, so that many of its students intern with federal government agencies or community organizations. The students in Bochum were schooled in Germany and therefore had different perspectives and knowledge of the United States, its history and people. They were not native speakers of English and had less exposure to U.S. media, but they were exposed to public discussions about immigration to their home country that would resonate with our course topic. In addition, they were planning a joint trip to Washington, D.C., a few weeks after our course ended.
I tried to figure these different backgrounds into the course design. For the AU course, I included theoretical texts to provide student with tools to interrogate the concepts “nation” and “immigration” and to enable them to later discuss immigration history, policies, and current debates, and ask critical questions of our guest speakers. To complement AU students’ interest in civic engagement, I invited immigration related practitioners as guest speakers, such as a staff attorney of an NGO-organization that provides advice and legal support for detained immigrants, and a documentary film maker whose film depicted multiple perspectives in disputes over the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona.
For my students in Germany, I did not include as many theoretical texts as I had used for my American students but instead added a reading specific to Washington, D.C., and provided more information about U.S. history and commemoration in the United States. I also made sure that we integrated discussions about Germany’s immigration debates as we learned about U.S. immigration. While my American students could suggest final paper projects based on their personal interests, my German students did not have the same necessary resources available to them. I therefore crafted an assignment based on a literary non-fictional narrative that introduced them to the much disputed U.S.-Mexican border region that I assumed most were not familiar with.