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Among the charges facing former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his right-hand man Richard Gates is failing to register as agents of a foreign government, and making false and misleading statements about that. The grand jury indictment unsealed Monday accuses the men of working on behalf of Ukraine and telling the Justice Department their activities "did not include meetings or outreach within the U.S."

Those charges are controversial, in part because violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act are rarely enforced. Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Manafort, told reporters outside the courthouse that prosecutors have used that "very novel" charge only six times since 1966, winning just one conviction.

On Capitol Hill, however, Senate Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa offered praise for that approach: "It's good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce" the law, Grassley said in a written statement.

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UMass Economics

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshiped, worked and created art, but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther's native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant: hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?


Student Participation

Why do we care if students participate?

• Student participation lets us know if they’re attentive, makes them attentive.

• Makes the material real, relates material to their own lives

• Lets us assess how much they understand.

• It’s boring for me to just talk all the time. I learn things, too. It shows students you respect them when you invite their contributions and take their contributions seriously.

• Student participation provides a springboard for further teaching.

• A connection to modes of learning [link here]. Passive listening is only one (and for most students far from the most effective) mode. They get plenty of that in large lecture classes. When they get to us in discussion sections or when they take classes that we are TOing and we have a smaller group, we have a great opportunity to engage them in other modes of learning, get them actively in involved in constructing their understanding of the material, not just receiving it as we package and present it to them.

• We know how much better we understand the material we have explained to someone else than the material we’ve just heard or read about. The act of explaining to someone else will help our students learn, too.

• When we are teaching material that we know well (and knowing the material well is an important prerequisite), we can easily lose our sense of what it is like not to know, our connection to the experience of struggling and grappling. A student who has just moments ago had their aha! moment may be a more effective teacher for that topic at that moment than you. She will be better able to identify the key that unlocked the idea for her than we are, because the unlocking is still a fresh new experience. The more voices we have, and the more ways we collectively reframe, restate, re-explain an idea, the more likely it is that at least one of those ways of presenting the idea will connect with each student in the room.

• Participating productively in class discussion is a skill in its own right. It does not come automatically or easily, and if we can foster this skill in our students, it will serve them well in almost any endeavor.

How can we facilitate participation?

Let’s start with the assumption that students want to participate and if they are not participating it is because they are not sure how. Our role is not a combative one; we are not trying to extract class discussion from a student body opposed in principle to cooperating with our goals and perversely resistant to our efforts to get them to talk. Instead, they are learning the learning process – and discussion is one important component of the learning process – at the same time they are learning the explicit course content. When we run into a roomful of students giving us the fish-eye stare, this frame can help us think about what to do. To be effective teachers of either participation/discussion skills or content, we need to be thoughtful and intentional about both.

Learning your students’ names: Learning names matters because everyone wants to be known. If you know names, you can more easily call on people to contribute and you can more easily refer back to what someone said earlier in the discussion. When you are teaching 96 students and you only see them for 50 minutes a week, learning names requires a strategy. Some techniques:

• I’ve found the most useful scenario for learning names is when I have the name on a piece of paper and I can read the name, say the name, and look at the student’s face all in the same transaction. If there is a written assignment very early in the semester, collecting those and passing them back can be your moment. If there isn’t one, create some other reason for them to write something down and pass it back and forth between you.
• Get a photo roster from Spire and study it.
• I’ve heard the suggestion of using name cards – I found that less useful than I was hoping because I could only see the ones in the first row or two. 

Make the norms and expectations for participation explicit. Establishing a safe space is still a nontrivial matter. I tell students why I think their participation is valuable and important, (see “Why do we care if students participate?” above), and how I intend to support their participation, and I ask them to think about and tell me what other supports for participation they might need. Here is a shpiel I gave at the beginning of the last class I taught:

Learning is a collaborative endeavor, so your participation makes an important contribution to your classmates’ learning. My goal is to make this a comfortable space for everyone to participate. I realize that everyone has different styles and comfort levels with speaking up in class discussions, so I will try to provide many different opportunities for participation, and I invite your suggestions for how to make the class time work for you. You have important contributions to make. Economic theory is an effort to systematically describe an aspect of the social world we live in. One important test of the theory is therefore whether it can help you make sense of what you see and experience; your experience is relevant and valid. Also, do not feel you have to have your ideas fully worked out and polished before you share them. I like this phrase I heard to describe this principle: share your ¾-baked ideas. If your idea is only 1/2 baked, OK, you might need to think it through on your own a little more. But if you wait until it is fully-baked you’ll never get around to sharing at all, and we’ll lose the benefit of the important contribution you can make. In collaboration and contact with other people and their ¾-baked ideas, you can take your thinking farther than you could on your own.

One obstacle to participation is people’s reluctance to give a wrong answer, so one thing I do is I try to ask open-ended questions that don’t have clear-cut right and wrong answers. For example, I might present two different theories or explanations and ask students how they would choose between the two. What evidence would they look for to test? How would they interpret that evidence? Do they find one more convincing than the other? Why? (This also has the benefit of pushing students farther up the learning hierarchy, away from simple rote recall toward more critical thinking. See learning modes notes – to be posted soon.)

\\For instances when we want students to provide answers to simple recall questions with clear right and wrong answers (which we might want to do just to break up the pace of the lecture and introduce other voices, for example) we can try the hot seat. Each class, two or three students are in the hot seat. They know beforehand so they can come prepared, but they can’t weasel out of it by skipping class that day because they’ll just be reassigned to the hot seat a different day. So then, throughout the class, when we want one of the students to say something about the reading or whatever they had to prepare for class, turn to the hot seat students first. Other students can volunteer if they want, but the hot seat students have to be prepared to be called on for any question. This seems like a good way to balance the desire to have very specific content covered accurately and the desire to have the students do some of the talking. 

Also, present wrong information or ideas and invite criticism.

Another obstacle to participation is that it takes time to think of an answer, and we often get uncomfortable quickly with silence. One direct approach is to just build up our tolerance for long periods of silence while people think things through, but I also try to provide structured ways for students to prepare answers beforehand so they are ready with an answer when I ask the question.

If you use moodle, have students respond to questions on moodle, and respond to each other. You can then read what they’ve written beforehand and refer to what they have posted.

I make frequent use of assigning sample problems in class and giving students a chance to work on them alone or in small groups (or alone and then in small groups). They can test out their answers against one another and practice explaining their answer to one or two classmates before we go over it in the big group. I can visit the groups as they work to check that they understood the question and are on the right track.

I also try to find ways to coach students in how to approach their preparation for class. For example, when I TAed for 104, there were several weeks when students were asked to read some articles and discuss them in a discussion section and then write a short essay. After the first one, I realized that they didn’t know how to come prepared for discussion. So for the subsequent two I made it an explicit requirement of the assignment that they take notes on the articles they read and come prepared to summarize the argument the author made, say something about the supporting evidence, write down some questions they had about the article, and try to identify the underlying assumptions. (They were discouragingly unable to think clearly about underlying assumptions and hence to identify when two arguments were in contradiction and when they were compatible, but never mind.) So then anyone who had done the assignment, which was most of them, sat in class with a piece of paper in front of them with ready-made things to say. They were more ready to volunteer, and if I cold-called someone they were almost always able to contribute.

Comments on calling on people who haven’t volunteered: Frame it as an invitation to talk, not a demand. Allow a pass (but return to the same person later).​



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