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Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:28 am
by ValenciaQBowl
Hey, Quizbowl!

At Valencia College, where I teach English, we have a Friday every February designated "Learning Day," during which faculty and staff deliver or attend breakout sessions on various topics, ranging from crafts to teaching strategies to academic issues. This February, I've signed up to present for an hour on "Quizbowl and Epistemology."

I wanted to do this to help my colleagues better understand what my students do and what they learn. I think this is necessary since even my most good-faith colleagues often refer to our "trivia team," or come to me with odd factoids ("Hey, did you know that more tomatoes are eaten by Lithuanians per capita than anyone else? You should share that with your team"), other whatever. And too many still make it clear that their attitude is that whatever we do isn't really similar to what happens in their own classes.

My plan is to talk a little about what quizbowl is, how I help direct players' learning, and how qb relates to academic subject matter. And then I'm going to have attendees get on the buzzer and answer some questions, illustrating pyramidality, etc.

So I'm telling you all this because I'm interested in any ideas y'all want to share about what you think I can do to explain the relationship between our game and college academics. I'm going to be referring to some of the course outlines for classes in, say, biology, humanities, and history, as well as midterm and final exams colleagues have let me have. I'll be making some reference to Bloom's Hierarchy, too, and I'm curious how to illustrate ways our questions (and/or the ability to think through them and answer them early) go above knowledge and comprehension on that model.

I look forward to any thoughts. Happy Saturnalia to all! (And mods, of course feel free to move this if you think this isn't the best subforum).

Re: Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:09 am
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Somebody who pays attention to their college classes will do alright in quizbowl, but you would be lying to your attendees if you told them that quizbowl was just a test about what you learned in school. Nobody can take enough classes to become a good quizbowl player from classes alone. Quizbowl players gain knowledge from being intellectually curious people for whom class-taking is just one source of knowledge, alongside independent reading, museum-attending, concert-going, etc. As we all know there are entire distributions in quizbowl where what is asked about does not match what one learns in classes on that subject. The study habits that lead to being good at quizbowl most of all lend themselves to becoming a life-long learner and lover of knowledge, something that is useful for decades past graduation.

Re: Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:37 am
by alexdz
I've been doing a lot of pondering how to sell this game to a new community college setting myself. And while what Bruce says is true, it's also true that quizbowl is a better test of real academic/classroom knowledge than the "factoid"/bar trivia that Chris's colleagues seem to have in mind.

Here are some classroom connections I could see being beneficial, from the perspective of me being a CC writing teacher:

Academic vocabulary: Quizbowl is a game that forces you to grapple with and attempt to understand unfamiliar words in context which may or may not be directly related to your field of study. It's a vocabulary builder.

Long-term focus: While an individual match or tournament may fade away, one's development as a player of this game is a long-term proposition of taking notes, doing research, and updating one's knowledge over a longer period of time. There is no cramming for a final and then forgetting.

Research: Quizbowl studying asks students to engage with different types of academic materials, including reference materials, literary works, reputable websites, etc. This is a skill many students lack, and directing them toward being better at this will be helpful for them in the classroom too.

Re: Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:27 pm
by ValenciaQBowl
you would be lying to your attendees if you told them that quizbowl was just a test about what you learned in school. Nobody can take enough classes to become a good quizbowl player from classes alone.
This is certainly true, Bruce. Probably 80% of what comes up in, say, the literature distribution of a tournament covers stuff that my players will never have had presented in a classroom. So this is a point I want to emphasize to my colleagues: that what we do IS representative of deep engagement with academic subject matter beyond the classroom (or at least it is for successful players and teams).

Along with match play at practice, I lead formal "lessons" on all kinds of topics, as I'm sure most coaches do, and I usually follow those up with questions on what we just discussed. This is obviously pretty similar to what happens in a classroom setting, though obviously we don't do essays or projects or anything. But I think mastery of the material is "tested" by players' ability to answer questions at match speed.

Of course, some of my colleagues will say that all we're "testing" is basic recall, but I know people here realize that much more critical thinking goes into answering toss-ups: anticipation of clues, narrowing of subject matter, even consideration of what's come up previously in the match and the level of the tournament.

Re: Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 1:34 pm
by Muriel Axon
A lot of quiz bowl players talk about the relationship between the sort of atomized facts one might learn from flashcarding or packet study and the more synoptic perspective that constitutes 'real knowledge,' as valued in academia. I found this article to offer an interesting perspective.

Re: Quizbowl Epistemology?

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:42 pm
by ValenciaQBowl
Thanks, Shan! That article is interesting and helpful. In particular, this paragraph is getting at what I'm thinking about:
Does this mean that quizzing is entirely about superficial knowledge? It is tempting to say yes, but in truth the issue is more complex. Questions I enjoy about literature or film on one level ignore the essence of the subjects—the experience of the artworks themselves, the attempt to discuss and interpret them. Yet we do need the kind of schemas that quizzing calls for. Like looking into Camillo’s memory theater, knowing about literature means commanding an overview—of tradition, of literary schools and groups of writers, of their influences and history. If you enjoy Baudelaire, isn’t a natural response to look him up in an encyclopedia, learn about related writers and come away with a skeleton history of nineteenth-century French poetry? Separating schematic knowledge from genuine appreciation is not so straightforward, as the two encourage each other. And even a little superficial knowledge can make you more attentive and appreciative than someone with no point of orientation.