Between 2018-2021, we conducted two phases of evaluation on VOXPOP’s classroom implementation with 331 students. In Phase I (2018-2019), we observed 2 simulations in 5 classroom implementations, taught by 6 teachers across 3 schools (N=129 students). In Phase II (2019-2021), we observed 5 simulations in 10 classroom implementations, taught by 5 teachers at 4 different schools (N=202 students).
Our research was guided by three broad research questions:
What were the impacts of VOXPOP as perceived by students?
What benefits and challenges did teachers experience in using VOXPOP?
What benefit did role-playing have in encouraging students’ perspective-taking?
Data included student and teacher interviews, classroom observations, and a survey administered to students following their participation in a VOXPOP simulation. Highlights from this evaluation’s findings are summarized below.
OUR FINDINGS AT-A-GLANCE
CONNECTING HISTORY TO CURRENT EVENTS
Students made connections between historical and current events. 121 student respondents (89.6%) felt that the situation they role played during the VOXPOP simulations bore many similarities to today’s issues. In interviews and class discussions, students made specific observations of these relationships, such as between discrimination against LGBTQ people during the AIDS crisis and against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic; and public sentiment toward AZT as an HIV treatment and toward new vaccines as prevention against COVID-19.
Students better appreciated the importance of multiple perspectives in solving social and political problems, and increased their motivation to act to solve problems they care about.
127 student respondents (94.1%) reported after the VOXPOP activity that every issue can be seen from multiple perspectives.
121 students (89.6%) reported that to solve community or political problems, we need to understand all perspectives of the people involved.
128 students (94.8%) reported that to solve community problems, individuals and groups need to collaborate effectively.
109 students (80.7%) reported being more interested in taking action for issues they care about after the VOXPOP activity.
Students were highly engaged with VOXPOP:
82.8% of students reported feeling engaged by the VOXPOP activity
93.8% of students reported that they enjoyed the VOXPOP activity
Students and teachers found the VOXPOP platform to be easy to use and highly effective.
Teachers and students indicated that the most useful tools were VOXPOP’s instructional videos and the individualized role playing guidance shown on students’ personal screens throughout the activity.
HOW MUCH DID STUDENTS ENJOY VOXPOP?
Students reported a greater than average enjoyment with VOXPOP
(Median = “Good,” 2 on a 4-point scale).
"I think this is a really creative and fun way to learn!"
- Anonymous Student
WHAT STUDENTS SAY
"This simulation was extremely helpful for me as a student. Please continue to do this!"
"This was by far the most helpful learning resource I have used in this class. I learned more than I usually do in this class from using this simulation."
"It reminds you that people like you can push laws into place...not only that it’s controlled by the government, but it also can be controlled by the people."
WHAT VALUE DID TEACHERS & STUDENTS FIND IN VOXPOP?
A SAFE WAY TO DISCUSS CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
Teachers appreciated that VOXPOP gives students the space to discuss contemporary issues. One teacher said that, because of the volatility of American politics, he tends to avoid debate around current events, which "kind of turns it into a boring class." The role-play mechanics "get kids to really engage, using historical context to flesh out current topics...gun rights, who can vote...we're still arguing about the same things."
"The students were so involved and passionate."
EASE OF USE
Teachers noted that the VOXPOP technology was easy for both students and teachers. "The transitions are really fast, and it provides them with just enough information to be able to talk about the issues," said Richard Kermond, a U.S. History teacher in Scituate, MA.
"The context was really easy to follow," said one student. Their classmate agreed, adding that the VOXPOP material "sums everything up really well and gets you into the mindset."
"The context was really easy to follow."
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF ROLE-PLAYING?
Teachers noted VOXPOP's effectiveness in conveying the importance of understanding multiple perspectives, and the critical role of role-play in doing so.
As one teacher said:
“VOXPOP really gets to the heart of the issue, that there’s multiple perspectives, and the only way to see it is to play it out."
"When you put kids in a position where they have to adopt a scenario and be somebody else, it’s what they remember. Their regular boring days in class they don’t remember."
— Richard Kermond, U.S. History teacher
Scituate High School, Scituate, MA