Status Quo Surveys

Status Quo
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 30 minutes (plus student prep time outside of class)

This activity is essentially a variation on the status quo database.
Within the first day or two of talking about a new topic, ask students what opinions they imagine most people have about the subject. Ask whether different groups of people might hold different opinions: would people under 25 think about things differently than over 25? people born in the U.S. differently than people born in other parts of the world? etc.

Explain that these seem like plausible ideas, but that we're really only guessing about public opinion. It might be interesting to ask actual people what they think. As a class, come up with two or three good questions to ask people about their opinions: Which television shows do you watch every week? What do you like about them? Did you vote in the last presidential election? Why or why not?

Brainstorm a short list of different groups students to whom students want to pose the questions. Break students into as many teams as there are groups of people; have each member of the team interview four or five people, writing down answers as accurately as possible. (Have a discussion about the etiquette of interviewing; for example, it's not a good idea to say, "People in my class thought that really ugly people would have different ideas about Barbie than really pretty people. So I'm asking the ugly people, and you seem ugly. What do you think about Barbie?")

In class, ask students to share results with other people from their team, to see if they can draw any general conclusions. Share results as a class. Ask a student scribe to write down the general conclusions. Put those claims on the class toolkit page.

After a few days or more of reading and discussion, ask students to take a look at the list of claims and make note of any that seem incomplete or inaccurate. (Students can do this as prep or in class, while in small groups.) Share results as a class. These claims now constitute the status quo for the topic.