Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

2011 Action Teaching Award Recipients

SPN Action Teaching Award    In 2011, the Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award was won by Richard Harvey of Saint Louis University for his entry "Intergroup Monopoly: A Lesson on the Enduring Effects of Inequality." The award comes with $1,000 in prize money and a one-year Sustaining Membership in Social Psychology Network.

For details on the winning entry as well as other excellent entries that received Honorable Mention, please see below. Instructors are welcome to use or adapt these teaching ideas for their own classes, provided the use is noncommercial and appropriate credit is given to the individuals below. To see other award-winning entries, please use the pulldown menu below.

Winning Entry
Title: Intergroup Monopoly: A Lesson on the Enduring Effects of Inequality
Submitted by: Richard Harvey (Saint Louis University)
Category: Classroom activity
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college, high school, work settings, other
Objective(s): To (1) illustrate the structural dynamics and consequences of intergroup inequalities, (2) teach students about the interdependencies between income and housing, and (3) help students appreciate the need for interventions that actively address the enduring effects of prior group-based disadvantages


Students playing Intergroup Monopoly Intergroup Monopoly is an action teaching game that modifies the classic Monopoly board game to explore the dynamics of group-based inequality. In Intergroup Monopoly, players begin with unequal amounts of money and are given individualized rules that reflect differing degrees of privilege or disadvantage. For example, a privileged player might receive $350 rather than the standard $200 for passing Go, whereas a disadvantaged player might be permitted to move only half the amount rolled on each turn. During this initial phase of the game, disadvantaged players quite often fall into substantial debt. In a second phase, "equal opportunity" is implemented and all players are permitted to play by normal Monopoly rules. What the players typically discover, however, is that even under conditions of equality, formerly disadvantaged players continue to decline and struggle with debt. This discovery leads to a classroom discussion about how to effectively address the enduring effects of prior group-based disadvantages.

Honorable Mention
Title: The Voices Project: Using Narratives to Reduce Stereotyping
Submitted by: Alicia Nordstrom (Misericordia University)
Category: Student assignment
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college, high school
Objective(s): To (1) enhance students' critical thinking and cultural competency, (2) reduce stereotypes and prejudice towards victimized and misunderstood social groups, and (3) share the voices of people from these groups in a public forum that promotes empathy and perspective taking


In the Voices Project, pairs of students are assigned to interview someone from a group toward which they have a negative attitude or a lack of familiarity (e.g., racial minorities, Muslims, people with AIDS). Students meet with their interviewee three times and focus particular attention on experiences that their interviewee has had being a target of prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination. In addition, students attend a cultural event related to the group they're seeking to understand. Based on these experiences, students then write a five-page autobiography of their interviewee from the first-person perspective. The project concludes by weaving the "voices" in these autobiographies into readable monologues that are performed in an event open to members of the campus and local community, thereby promoting greater intergroup awareness, perspective taking, and empathy beyond the classroom.

Honorable Mention
Title: LiveHappy: An iPhone Application to Increase Students' Happiness
Submitted by: Jaime Kurtz (James Madison University)
Sonja Lyubomirsky (University of California, Riverside)
Category: Web-based resource
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college, high school, work settings
Objective(s): To help students: (1) understand positive psychology and the factors that affect happiness and life satisfaction, (2) learn how to assess happiness and subjective well-being, and (3) discover how to live a happier life while also making others happier


Screenshot of the LiveHappy iPhone Application LiveHappy is an iPhone application with modules featuring empirically validated happiness-boosting strategies such as keeping a gratitude journal, performing acts of kindness, and nurturing interpersonal relationships. The application has been used in classes on positive psychology and is also well suited for classes in social or personality psychology, introductory psychology, psychological measurement, and research methods. Once students have downloaded the software, they complete baseline measures of mood and subjective well-being. Next, they perform a set of customized activities recommended by LiveHappy (e.g., expressing gratitude toward someone in their iPhone contact list via email, text, or calling the person). After a few weeks of using LiveHappy, students then assess their subjective well-being a second time and often find that simple cognitive and behavioral changes have led to sustained increases in well-being. In this way, students learn firsthand about the psychology of happiness while actually becoming happier themselves and nurturing their relationships with others.

Honorable Mention
Title: Foreign Language Exercises That Promote Diversity
Submitted by: Malgorzata Maria Wojcik (Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities)
Category: Classroom activity
For students/learners in: College, high school, grade school
Objective(s): To (1) teach students a foreign language, and (2) help students see outgroup diversity in a way that reduces negative stereotypes and promotes an appreciation of diversity


This classroom activity involves 30 exercises for teaching English and promoting diversity at the same time. These action teaching language exercises: (a) emphasize common intergroup identities, (b) illustrate how stereotypes are inadequate, and (c) show some of the ways that discrimination is harmful and unfair. For example, in a language exercise focused on homelessness, students begin by learning vocabulary words related to homelessness and then read true life stories about three homeless people who share certain attributes with the students, such as enjoying nature, dreaming about being famous, or quarreling with parents. As part of the lesson, students are asked to describe the family background, interests, and dreams of each homeless person and of themselves, and to give an oral report describing how the person became homeless, what the person hopes for the future, and what might help the person. Pre-test and post-test results suggest that these lessons are not only effective at teaching English but that they lead students to become more accepting of stereotyped outgroups.

Honorable Mention
Title: Reducing Prejudice: A Cultural Learning Experience
Submitted by: Kelly Campbell (California State University, San Bernardino)
Category: Student assignment
For students/learners in: Graduate school, college
Objective(s): To help students (1) understand the psychological and sociological factors involved in prejudice and intergroup bias; (2) develop their critical thinking and academic writing skills; and (3) assess and reduce their own racial, ethnic, or cultural biases


This action teaching assignment involves three parts. First, students learn about implicit biases and take an Implicit Association Test that they believe might reveal a personal bias related to race or ethnicity. Second, students challenge their bias by immersing themselves in a cultural setting that allows for interaction with members of the group they have chosen (for example, someone with a bias concerning Asians might attend a Chinese New Year celebration, or someone with a bias concerning Arab Muslims might attend Islamic mosque services). Third, students interview one or two members of the selected group, asking questions such as: (a) "What does it mean to you to be a member of this cultural or ethnic group?" (b) "Have you been personally affected by prejudice and/or racism?" and (c) "What suggestions can you offer to encourage mutual respect among various cultural groups?" At the end of this experience, students submit a report summarizing what they learned and how they'll continue to challenge their biases and learn about different groups in the future.

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