Douglas Adams in the radio studio for “Social Sounds”

Douglas Adams in the radio studio for “Social Sounds”

‘Social Sounds’ Complement Wisdom Through Fun

KXUA 88.3 FM, Student-run radio station

KXUA 88.3 FM, Student-run radio station

by Melissa Bradt

It’s 7 o’clock on a Thursday evening, and if you happen to be tuned into KXUA 88.3 FM, you’ll hear stories that incorporate sociological terms, explanations of sociology concepts and questions about sociology thanks to professor Douglas Adams and his show, Social Sounds which airs every week from 7-8 p.m.

Adams, associate professor of sociology, hosts the show for his general sociology class. On the broadcast, he takes callers’ questions about lecture topics and reviews material for his biweekly exams. In addition to live calls, students are invited to send text messages with questions regarding information covered in class, and he answers the questions on air. The texts help Adams keep a record of messages and participation rates.

He has also tracked student listeners through mentioning a secret word on air. During an exam, he had students write the secret word on the back of their Scantrons and found that 30 percent of the class, or about 110 students, were listening to his show. The secret word was “Durkheim,” as in French sociologist Émile Durkheim who is credited as a principal founder of modern sociology. The week Adams’ show discussed gender, the secret word was “patriarchy.”

“I started the show at the end of the fall 2014 semester when students wanted a review session for the final exam,” Adams said.

Thinking that doing a radio review might be a new way to engage students, he went to the KXUA station manager and asked for a time slot that wasn’t currently used for a program.

“Now that it’s weekly, I cover one chapter per week and try to stay ahead of what other professors are teaching in their sociology classes. My hope is that students in other general sociology classes can also follow along with the show and benefit as well.”

Many of the questions discussed on the show are student-generated and the show gives those in Adams’ class the opportunity to earn extra credit. Adams plans to continue Social Sounds as long as it’s successful. He’s even considering holding a live show at the university’s Greek Theatre.

“It’s a lot of fun interacting with my students during the radio show, and it seems to be helping them to gain a better grasp of the material. No one has taken me up on it yet, but I hope that some of my colleagues will eventually want to be part of it, too.”   

The show fits well with Adams’ teaching philosophy. He believes in WTF, otherwise known as Wisdom Through Fun.  The basic premise is that learning should be an enjoyable process that encourages active participation.  In a typical class session, Adams lectures for 25 minutes and spends the rest of the time quizzing his students using a “game show” format, a practice he started incorporating in 2010.  The in-class gaming structure he developed allows students in the audience to do a quick self-assessment after each class.

“The gaming process helps students with problem solving skills.”

He calls this approach The Relevant Classroom, a philosophy that encourages multiple layers of classroom-based engagement and the assessment of learning using a variety of methods. The Relevant Classroom curriculum provides a template for the integration of lectures with slides and videos, in class gaming drills, teamwork and the assessment of out-of-class projects. The platform is adaptable to all disciplines and topics and is scalable for classes from four to more than 400 students.

Adams’ website provides the opportunity for students to review projects and videos created by their peers for ideas, insight, inspiration and some chuckles. More content is added at the end of each semester.

All are welcome, and even encouraged, to learn more about ideas, opinions, beliefs and cultures by tuning in to Social Sounds at 7 p.m. Thursdays on KXUA 88.3, follow @DouglassAdams222 on Twitter, and learn more about the students in Adams’ classes by watching their videos on Diversity in Diversity, the Presentation of Self and the Commodification of Self.

Listen to clips from the show


Melissa Bradt

About the author

Melissa Bradt is a senior in the Department of Communication. She is serving as a communications intern in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for the spring 2015 semester.