Interview Bingo

One of the biggest challenges in higher education is getting students to actively participate during class time, especially in larger groups. The traditional lecture format simply does not lend itself well for this. Luckily, there are plenty of other teaching techniques that not only motivate students to participate actively during class, but also ensure that the quality of participation increases. As a former quiet student myself, I find it important that class participation does not simply involve giving the loudest students a platform to comment on the course material. Instead, it should give all students the tools to find their voice and use it during class.

For that reason, I love doing fishbowl discussions during my classes. A fishbowl is a different way of organizing a debate. Students are divided into two concentric circles: a small group of students takes place in an inner circle, while the remainder of the class forms an outer circle around them. The students in the inner circle – within the fishbowl, if you will – take part in the discussion. The students in the outer circle observe the discussion and take note of what happens. After a few minutes, the course instructor halts the discussion in the inner circle and asks the observing students to reflect on what happened.  This way, even students who are not speaking are involved in the discussion. Several variations of the fishbowl discussion also exist.

Having used fishbowl discussion for various purposes in my courses over the years, I recently decided to do one in my Research Methods course. This course is part of the flipped classroom that I have written about here. With the lecture part of the course taking place online, it is even more important that class time is being spent in an active manner. For this reason, I decided to combine a fishbowl discussion with a mock interview for the workshop on qualitative interviewing.

This is how it worked: before coming to class, all students had to prepare a list of interview questions on a given topic. The type of respondent was also given. So in one workshop, students were to interview a fictional senior bureaucrat on government budget cutbacks, while in another workshop the mock interview was held with a fictional citizen on tax evasion. During the workshop, two volunteers played out the interview inside “the fishbowl”. The other students observed. To structure their observations, I had made bingo cards with a number of good and bad interviewing practices, using this website . Each time the students observed something from their bingo cards, they crossed off that box – until somebody had bingo of course!

Bingo Picture

At that point, we would halt the mock interview and have the student calling bingo comment on the observations he/she made and what had been missing from the interview. After a brief discussion, we would continue the interview with a new interviewer and interviewee. With the first round covering the beginning of the interview to approximately the half-way point and the second round picking up where we had left off until the end of the conversation, we were able to cover a full interview from start to finish.

Having taught this exercise a number of times now, I have found that it has consistently led to interesting observations and discussions, especially when students disagree on what they had observed!* It has also served the original purpose of the fishbowl exercise by allowing those students, who feel uncomfortable being at the center of attention in the classroom, to actively participate in the mock interview. For this reason, interview bingo has become a standard feature of my interviewing workshop. If you would like to try interview bingo for yourself, feel free to use this link to download the bingo cards (simply click on the bingo card shown to download a pdf-file).

*It should be added that the stakes are high: in the Netherlands, it is customary for the person who erroneously calls bingo to sing a song of choice as penalty 😊.

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Flipping the Research Methods Classroom, Part 1

Curious how my colleague Alexandre Afonso and I have revamped our Research Methods course from a traditional seminar format into a flipped classroom, using blended learning? The first instalment in a new blog series on our course has appeared on the Active Learning in Political Science blog!

Here’s a sneak peak:

The idea behind our Research Methods 3.0 course was simple: in order to be able to spend more class time on practicing hands-on research skills, we needed to move some of our teaching online. In our department, graduate courses often only meet once a week and the duration of a typical course is seven weeks, too short a time to cover the full range of social science methodologies. We quickly learned that our students did not need such a broad survey to carry out their own thesis projects. This led to our second decision: not only would part of the course be moved online, but it would also be modular, allowing students to pick and choose which research methods they wanted to specialize in.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing how we built the online environment for our flipped classroom, the set-up of our offline workshops, using the flipped classroom for collaborative teaching and what our students thought of our flip.

Read along!

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Performativity and Governance of Actuarial Models @ FMSH

Today and tomorrow I will be attending the international meeting on the “Performativity and Governance of Actuarial Models,” hosted by the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme in Paris. I will be presenting parts of my research on the financial origins of the Dutch pension system. Looking forward!

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New Article on Financialization and the Pension System

My article “Financialisation and the Pension System: Lessons from the United States and the Netherlands” was recently published in the Journal of Modern European History (Vol. 15, No. 4). The article explores the financialisation of private pensions in the United States and the Netherlands. It proposes two distinct arguments. First, the article shows that both the American and the Dutch pension systems stand out internationally for their high degrees of capitalisation and the absence of substantive investment restrictions for pension funds. The article posits that both pension systems are highly financialised, yet the process of financialisation has proceeded along different historical paths and within different institutional contexts.

Second, the article maintains that the financialisation of pension systems is accompanied by its own political dynamics. In both political economies, different groups of actors (employers, labour unions, financial professionals) have made claims over the growing concentration of pension assets. Here, particular emphasis is given to the role of the state. It shows how since the mid-1970s, both American and Dutch pension funds have altered their investment strategies, abandoning public debt as the dominant investment category.

The article explains this change in terms of the rising popularity of modern portfolio theory and the immense growth of pension capital in need of new investment options. As austerity politics have made governments more dependent on financial markets, pension funds have become more assertive in leveraging their assets and demanding political reform which are in the interest of the financial industries. Financialisation has thus fundamentally altered the balance of power between the state and financial market actors.

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Citation of Excellence

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I am very grateful to have received this Citation of Excellence award from Emerald Publishing, for my article “Making Sense of Financialization” in Socio-Economic Review (available here). More than anything, this award shows that financialization continues to be an important topic for academic research. It is a great encouragement for my new projects on financialization, such as the Routledge International Handbook of Financialization (with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens).

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July 21, 2017 · 9:47 am

Finance at Work


Last week, Routledge published the new edited volume by Valerie Boussard, Finance at Work, to which I contributed a chapter. From the back cover: “Finance at Work explores the world of financiers, be they finance-oriented CEOs, CFOs, financial journalists, mergers and acquisitions’ advisors or wealth managers.” The edited volume results from the Finance at Work symposium, held in 2014 at the University of Nanterre Paris Ouest.

My chapter, based on the paper I presented at the conference, analyzes how the field of finance is constituted through its interactions with outsiders. It follows the attempts of the AFL-CIO Committee for the Investment of Union Pension Funds to start its own employee-buyout fund, the Employee Partnership Fund (EPF), in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Based on original archival research, the chapter exposes the social boundaries separating the financial sector from organized labor, while illustrating the diffusion of financial sector norms and practices through the EPF project. In the chapter, I argue that the case of the EPF shows how financial expansion occurs through the socialization of critical outsiders into the world of finance.

A pre-publication version of the chapter can be found here. 

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Preview Nederland Pensioenland: nu bij!

Een sneak preview van mijn boek (samen met Sijbren Kuiper), Nederland Pensioenland, is nu verschenen op Naar aanleiding van de vijf grootste misverstanden over pensioen bespreken wij de belangrijkste punten uit ons boek.

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