Rasul Mowatt

The Ethics and Social Ramifications of Recreation: Undergraduate Research Using Video as a Method

Spotlight, December 2014

Rasul Mowatt

Rasul Mowatt, professor of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies in the School of Public Health, observed that graduating seniors lacked an understanding of social responsibility and civic engagement in recreation. He wanted them to be able to think critically, ethically, and responsibly about the ramifications of leisure time, recreation, and tourism on both individuals and the broader, diverse community—and waiting until students were ready to enter the field professionally was too late!

To start guiding students’ intellectual development early—in their freshman year—Mowatt decided to use a Video Action Research and Pedagogy (VARP) project in his first-year class, R110 Foundations of Recreation and Leisure. R110, with up to 220 students, prepares incoming freshmen for a range of fields in recreation. In designing the VARP project for this course, Mowatt built on existing learning activities, incorporating project-based learning with elements of team-based learning. He also significantly reduced the overall number of assignments for the course.

In the VARP project, students work in the same team throughout the semester to conduct authentic research, examine the broad implications of an issue, and create a video. Within their teams, students identify and explore a social issue pertaining to recreation. The team then plans, records, and edits a video that depicts, analyzes, and reflects on the social, economic, community, and individual effects of that issue. To produce the video, each team follows a six-stage process:

  1. Topic development
  2. Structure and outline (storyboard)
  3. Test run
  4. Rough draft
  5. Final edited version
  6. Final presentation of the video

In planning and producing the video, students must grapple with the challenge of how to communicate through the visual medium, actually showing issues and their impact rather than relying on text to convey information.

The VARP project also includes a written component, “Writing With Video,” in which each student writes a paper related to the group topic. Having already produced a video gives students a sense of how to structure their papers—a significant aid to those who might otherwise struggle with writing.

To complete their papers, students gather information from various sources (including peer-reviewed journals), evaluate the sources, and interpret and evaluate the information. They also reflect on the issue they have chosen and on their process for producing the video.

Mowatt gives students feedback at each stage of the project. This is important because students sometimes forget that the purpose of the video is to explore an important issue.

The final exam for the course takes essay form and assesses what individual students learned while developing video and writing their paper.

As he has over the last 10 semesters, Mowatt continues to modify and refine the project. He is currently reorganizing the assignment so that students have a more limited range of issues from which to choose. This will allow them to focus more on an issue and its impact, and less on the search for just the right issue. Although students still struggle with putting together sources, and struggle with the medium of video, they have created unique projects that explore sensitive issues surrounding recreation and leisure time.

Students anonymously reveal what they are self-conscious about by writing it out on paper

Rasul Mowatt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, School of Public Health.