UND kinesiologist eyes a taekwondo class for research


Kate Menzies

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UND kinesiologist eyes a taekwondo class for research

From the mats of a Grand Forks taekwondo dojang, Jesse Rhoades, a University of North Dakota assistant professor of Kinesiology & Public Health Education, examines networks of students to gain a better understanding of how they interact.

It's all part of his pedagogical research to see how students, especially in physical education classes, form social groupings. Once students are in these groupings, Rhoades examines how they communicate with each other.

With the help of two graduate students, Rhoades is trying to develop better teaching strategies that target entire classrooms, rather than just a few students. Through his research, he has discovered that social networks may hold promise in understanding how to design a teaching curriculum that achieves optimal success.

The project stemmed from his dissertation work, which proposed that communities of practice tend to develop their own knowledge and then circulate it. This is a concept that Rhoades believes in strongly.

"I view learning as a co-evolutionary process," said Rhoades. This process is one in which students learn by teaching, thereby actively engaging in the material.

Based on this theory of co-evolution education, Rhoades hypothesizes that students may get more out of classes if teachers direct certain materials to specific students, who can then in turn teach others in their social networks.

Ultimately, his findings may have implications on bullying. Rhoades is curious about the ways in which bullying affects the social structures that students form.

"I want to see if learning is disrupted or enhanced by certain processes like bullying," said Rhoades.

Since bullying behaviors are linked to anti-social properties, the goal would be to help design teaching methods that may mediate these effects.

Currently, Rhoades is among the few researchers in the United States studying this topic. He is working with researchers in New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa who are also studying novel education techniques.

The field of education has generally been resistant to complexity research, instead opting for the traditional direct classroom approach to teaching.

But Rhodes contends, "This research is giving us answers to questions we just aren't getting with other teaching methods."

Even though his study remains in the confines of a local taekwondo dojang, Rhoades hopes someday to conduct his research in public schools.

Kate Menzies University & Public Affairs student writer

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