Curriculum Theory and the Undergraduate Political Science Major: Toward a Contingency Approach

Curriculum Theory and the Undergraduate Political Science Major: Toward a Contingency Approach

By E. Fletcher McClellan, Elizabethtown College

There is a variety of curricular models for organizing the undergraduate political science major (McClellan 2015). Among them are the traditional distribution model, which exposes students to various subfields in the discipline, and the sequenced-learning framework recommended by the Wahlke Report (Wahlke 1991). Other pathways include civic-engagement education, a recent area of emphasis in the discipline (Matto et al. 2017).

Embedded in these and other course arrangements are theories of how students learn and what a curriculum is, its purpose, and its pedagogy. The analysis in this article applies curriculum theory to current and potential models of the political science curriculum, describing the strengths and limits of each structure as a platform for promoting intended learning. The findings suggest that the future political science major should not be a “one-size-fits-all” framework but rather a choice from curricula that best address different learning goals.