Active Learning: Beyond Structured Debates in Political Science Pedagogy

Active Learning: Beyond Structured Debates in Political Science Pedagogy

By Robert J. McMonagle, Neumann University and Ryan Savitz, Neumann University

“How can I get students, especially freshmen, to participate in class?” This is a classic question facing both new and seasoned faculty members, depending on the cohort of students and other factors. After class over one decade ago, a student approached me conveying his interest in the course material, but he also suggested inclusion of debates. I ran with his proposal, approaching a communications faculty member who helped me craft a unique structured debate pedagogy that has evolved through different variants over time.

A couple of years later, Skip Downing, an internationally known expert in faculty development and student success spoke at a workshop here at Neumann University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Downing presented an “ice breaker” technique for use with new freshmen – a “value-line” exercise – one that enables students to individually rate their responses to a statement and subsequently engage in individualized debate with their classmates. Bingo. Now I had a prospective repertoire in my political science (and history) debate pedagogy.

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The Journal of Political Science Education is an intellectually rigorous, path-breaking, agenda-setting journal that publishes the highest quality scholarship on teaching and pedagogical issues in political science. The journal aims to represent the full range of questions, issues and approaches regarding political science education, including teaching-related issues, methods and techniques, learning/teaching activities and devices, educational assessment in political science, graduate education, and curriculum development.


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