This activity teaches skills in critical assessment of the peer-reviewed published literature. It focuses on analysis of clinical trials in mental health, but the principles and methods are readily generalizable to other scientific literature. The “Smackdown” approach represents an augmentation of the traditional “journal club” mode of teaching critical scientific reading skills.
Students learn to construct a persuasive argument by brainstorming multiple ways to structure their final research paper using post-its, large pieces of paper, or whatever other materials students like. They organize and re-arrange primary sources in a low-pressure environment to generate multiple logical flows for their papers.
Students are asked to write down a weird or random fact about themselves on a sticky note and to pass it to the person to their left. Each student is then asked to brainstorm logically possible explanations of the fact he or she has received. Through this activity, students learn to distinguish the best or most likely explanations from all the logically possible ones.
Faculty develop a national security crisis and simulate placing the students on the National Security Council Staff to develop strategic options to drive U.S. foreign policy. By thrusting students into positions of responsibility for solutions to real-world issues, this activity requires students to draw on what they have learned and to think on their feet, and it fosters a deeper appreciation for the challenges associated with working on foreign policy.