Teaching and Learning Politics panels in Hamburg, 22-25 August 2018

The ECPR Standing Group, Teaching and Learning Politics was represented with five panels and a roundtable about ‘When Does Teaching Matter in Academic (Career) Development?‘ at the 2018 ECPR General Conference in Hamburg.

List of Conference Panels

Detailed Panel Descriptions

P212: Innovating Political Science

The purpose of this panel was to discuss examples of innovative approaches to teaching and learning in various Political Science courses. We particularly welcome papers that discuss experiences with novel pedagogic methods or ways of learning and moreover provide evidence in the context of existing literature on teaching and learning in higher education. The contributors can discuss issues such as the ways of overcoming existing barriers, disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives and practices, use of new technology, employment of non-traditional assessment methods and examples of problem based-learning, among the others. We expect the contributors to showcase examples of good practice whilst providing inspiration and encouragement for improving existing ways of teaching and learning. Similarly welcome are papers that critically examine approaches that did not lead to expected outcomes.

Chair: Ulrich Hamenstädt, University of Muenster
Discussant: Alistair Jones, De Montfort University

1. “Trigger Warnings and Research Methods.”
Michelle Bentley (University of London, Royal Holloway College, UK)

This Paper engages the controversial debate on trigger warnings in Higher Education (HE) with innovative modes of teaching/learning, specifically in relation to research methods. It makes the original claim that HE educators should focus on expanding innovative research methods training in Politics/International Relations, as opposed to issuing trigger warnings.

The current debate on trigger warnings in the university classroom is highly contentious. Examples of their use repeatedly hit the news headlines – not just in the HE sector, but also as a wider public concern. For example, the University of Cambridge recently came under fire for attaching trigger warnings to a lecture on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. While some view trigger warnings as a vital means of securing the university student, others see their use as infantilising and contradictory to the pedagogical aims of HE learning e.g. the development of critical thought. With this dispute in mind, the paper argues for a compromise between the two sides – a case where the sentiment of trigger warnings (ensuring students do not become triggered) is achieved not via explicit cautions, but through changing our approach to teaching research methods. By innovatively teaching students to deal with potentially triggering material as part of the research methods curriculum, this both supports students and removes the negative ramifications of trigger warning use. This will be especially beneficial for more advanced students (e.g. third year undergraduates and postgraduate).

In making this case, the Paper draws on survey and focus group data taken from a study of second and third year undergraduate students. The student participants took modules in potentially triggering subjects within International Relations – a general module on international security and a specialist unit on terrorism – in which trigger warnings were used and not used comparatively. This study revealed that a) some students welcomed the support offered by trigger warnings, b) other students felt the warnings were infantilising, and, most interestingly, c) trigger warnings can actually be detrimental to students without a triggering condition (by making them worry unnecessarily about the module content). The students who opposed trigger warnings were more likely to be third years and, therefore, further into their university progression. In response to these findings, the paper uses this data to conclude that trigger warnings should be replaced by innovative means of research methods training. The Paper also outlines what this will mean for HE educators, and especially for those working in Politics and International Relations

  1. “Enrolling at the University after Role-playing. Assessing how the ‘National Model United Nations’ Experience Influences High-school Students’ Decisions.”
    Fabrizio Coticchia (Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy), Enrico Calossi (Università di Pisa, Italy), and Lorenzo Cicchi (European University Institute, Italy)

The literature on simulations and role-playing has focused on the ways through which new ways of teaching political science and international relations enrich and improve the students’ learning experience. Recent research has provided empirical evidence to properly assess the role played by unconventional learning activities such as games and simulations in affecting students’ knowledge and perceptions. In line with this existing research effort, the paper aims at evaluating how the participation to the “National Model United Nations” (NMUN) has influenced high-school students’ decisions to enroll at university. Our main argument is that attending at the NMUN represents a driving factor in affecting the students’ choices on enrollment. The study is based on extensive empirical material, collected through questionnaires submitted to hundreds of high-school students before and after the preparatory classes and the NMUN conference in New York.

  1. “Documentation requirements in Political Science journals: moving towards open access practices.”
    Carolina Curvale (FLACSO, Ecuador)

This article explores the incidence of open science in academic research and teaching practices in the field of Political Science. Open science´s objective is to shed light on information about data, research procedures, and results of academic work, thus making information accessible to reviewers and the general public. This practice is not yet prevalent across the social sciences although there is a consensus about the importance of replication in building or rejecting theory and knowledge. This article systematically collects and analyzes data on publishing requirements of the top journals in the fields at point, including pre-registration requirements, thus allowing for the identification of trends at the regional level. It also explores ways to incorporate principles of transparent use of data into the course syllabi. We also look into the stats of withdrawn journal articles in the field of Political Science and compare it with those of other social sciences.

  1. “Interviewing ‘Europe’: Bridging the gap between students and practitioners of EU policymaking?”
    Jamal Shahin, Claske Vos, Mathilde Delabie, Andrei Frank, Chloë Van Hoegaerden, Reowin Renkema, and David Tindall (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

This paper addresses three parallel concerns raised by teaching and studying European Studies at the MA level. First, efforts are increasingly being made to help European Studies students develop transferable skills. Second, the gap between ‘Brussels’ and those students who have chosen to study it is perceived as unnecessarily large. Third, the complexity of European policymaking is often easier to understand when students get ‘hands on’ experience.

In order to address these concerns, we identified interview experience as a fundamental skill that students should develop during our MA programme. Our short module “Study Skills: Brussels” helps students overcome the barriers to engaging with practitioners at the EU level. The students are given support in setting up interviews with a variety of different actors in the ‘Brussels Bubble’ before going there for three days. They are free to select interviewees according to a topic of their own choosing, generally related to their MA thesis. Hence, students gain first-hand experience of talking to people who live and work in the ‘heart of Europe’, leading to a better understanding of the policymaking process. This helps students develop an awareness of the attitudes of the elites they study. This whole process ensures that students graduate with an MA in European Studies having seen that ‘Brussels’ is not a million miles away from their own experiences. In terms of reducing the distance between the EU institutions and the citizens, this is a small, but very useful step.

This course has been running for two years now, and we have been collecting data on students’ attitudes and experiences, as well as data concerning the organisation and execution of interviews. As part of the course, students have been required to collect data about how they set up their interviews. Several variables have been coded as a result of the 120+ interviews that the students have carried out in the past two years. Our paper focuses on aspects of how accessible the elites are in EU policymaking circles: who responds to requests for interviews, which individuals in the various institutional hierarchies are willing to talk and under what circumstances, is there a distinction between different EU institutions and others in terms of response rates.

  1. “Enriching learning experiences for students in political science subjects through immersive learning, elearning and emergent pedagogies.”
    Marc Jacquinet (Universidade Aberta, Portugal)

The literature on simulations and role-playing has focused on the ways through which new ways of teaching political science and international relations enrich and improve the students’ learning experience. Recent research has provided empirical evidence to properly assess the role played by unconventional learning activities such as games and simulations in affecting students’ knowledge and perceptions. In line with this existing research effort, the paper aims at evaluating how the participation to the “National Model United Nations” (NMUN) has influenced high-school students’ decisions to enroll at university. Our main argument is that attending at the NMUN represents a driving factor in affecting the students’ choices on enrollment. The study is based on extensive empirical material, collected through questionnaires submitted to hundreds of high-school students before and after the preparatory classes and the NMUN conference in New York.

P152: Evidence-based Teaching in Political Science

This panel was conceived in the best traditions of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL), which builds upon the recognition of the reciprocal relationship between teaching and research. Acknowledging that most teachers in higher education have a strong identity as researchers, SOTL encourages teaching staff to use their disciplinary research skills and apply them in order to investigate the efficiency of their teaching and the impact it has on student learning. Therefore, purpose of the panel is to propagate scholarly enquiry into the teaching and learning process—an idea that stands at the heart of the activities of the Teaching and Learning Politics standing group. The panel will consist of one or two papers that discuss the best practices in SOTL and research papers in which panelist inquire into their own classroom practice and its effect on student learning, putting SOTL into practice.

Chair: Kerstin Hamann (University of Central Florida, USA)
Discussant: Ulrich Hamenstädt (University of Muenster, Germany)

1. “Societal Relevance Dimensions of Graduating in Political Science in Austria.”
Lore Hayek, Sabine Gatt, and Christian Huemer (University of Innsbruck, Austria) 

In 2016, 4.350 students were enrolled in one of the BA programmes and 1.481 pursued a Master’s programme in political science at an Austrian university. However, only a small number of degree holders move on to an academic career; others move on to jobs in the public or private sector. Many of them are no longer perceived as “political scientists” in their day-to-day work, despite their formal education. A thorough assessment of the relevance of political science in Austria therefore needs to focus not only on the reception of political science research, but also on the impact of teaching, i.e. the contribution that political science graduates make to society.

The article draws on data from the Graduate Monitoring conducted by the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna, which evaluates graduates’ progress in the labour market, and other studies that assess political science students’ professional positions years after graduation. Furthermore, we conducted semi-structured e-mail interviews with graduates from the Department of Political Science at the University of Innsbruck to assess if and how they could utilize the skills and profit from the background gained during their political science degree.

Increasing knowledge about students’ likely career paths will help to improve or adjust curricula and contribute to a better understanding of the theories, methods and instruments that political science graduates will apply in their future careers. We also want to contribute to an ongoing debate within ECPR on our students’ and graduates’ future opportunities and the impact of political science education on society

  1. “Course Modality, Student Demographics, and Learner Success.”
    Kerstin Hamann, Philip Pollock, Bruce Wilsom (University of Central Florida, USA University of Central Florida), and Rebecca Glazier (University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA)

Once on the fringes of higher education, online learning is now mainstream. Today, there are fewer entirely online or entirely face-to-face students; increasingly, college students are taking courses in a variety of instructional formats. Unfortunately, students in online classes are more likely to fail than students in traditional face-to-face classes. Here, we take close look at this disparity using aggregate demographic and academic data from thousands of students across two universities. Which factors exert the greatest influence of student success? What role does course modality play? Do students enrolled in a single online class face the same failure rates as students who take all of their classes online? Much of the literature on online education in political science focuses almost exclusively on political science courses. By looking comparatively across disciplines and holistically at a student’s entire course load, we hope to find patterns that might be obscured when the focus is only on political science. As online education continues to grow, universities, departments, and instructors need to better understand how to serve and retain students who take online classes. This large-n study aims to provide greater insight into the factors driving online and in-person student-success disparities.

  1. “Active Learning in Large Groups to Deepen Students Knowledge and Understanding.”
    Ina Schmidt (Masaryk University, Czechia)

This SoTL-paper evaluates a teaching innovation, based on active learning and teaching methods that was implemented with a group of 26 bachelor students. This number is considered a large group in the context of the innovation; the students were participating in a mandatory course of a political science programme. The first-half of the course was based on a theoretical and teacher-centred approach which for some students can lead to surface learning (Biggs and Tang, 2011). Therefore, it was important to switch to active learning in the second-half to ensure the acquired knowledge did not stay superficial and short-term. The innovation is theoretically based on the concept of active learning (Hahn 2015) and employed amongst others methods such as: in-class discussions, open discussions with the whole class and a mock trial.

The measurement of the impact of the innovation was based on the research question – how do active learning methods impact students’ understanding and performance? Research methods used included: students being asked to provide feedback on every class in the form of anonymous minute papers and the author’s assessment of the individual position papers, of which students completed three in total during the course. The minute papers were evaluated by using content analysis and an open coding system developed in the process of the analysis. Additionally, the results of the position papers were analysed in a quantitative way to evaluate whether progress had taken place and how these results were correlated to the course of the preceding class.

The results of the analyses confirmed the positive effect of active learning on the assignments written by students. Additionally, based on the analyses, direct student-to-student interaction seemed to be more beneficial to students than student-to-teacher interaction. Also, the active parts of the teaching were evaluated strongly positive by the students and classes that included active learning methods left individual students less confused about the discussed topics.

Due to its relative short duration, including only 6 seminars, the study could not confirm long-term effects of active learning methods but only the immediate effect of interactive methods to the understanding demonstrated in the associated written assignments. The relatively small sample (N =26 students) and the fact that additional influences could not be controlled limit the reliability of the results. Future studies conducted under the same or similar conditions and, if possible, data collected from other seminar groups, which learn based on different methods, might help to close these gaps.

However, my reflection on this teaching innovation leaves me in no doubt that active learning methods helped students to get acquainted with new topics in greater depth and to understand them better. Students not only evaluated active methods strongly positive but also reached better results in their written assignments when they had worked with a topic actively.

  1. “Collaborative learning in politics: Creating spaces for political socialization in the classroom.”
    Gloria M. Cousinou (Universidad Loyola Andalucía (Spain), Beatriz Tomé Alonso (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain), Alberto Álvarez de Sotomayor (Universidad de Córdoba, Spain), and Paula Herrero (Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)

Political socialization describes the process by which citizens crystalize political identities, values and behavior that remain relatively persistent throughout their life Neundorf and Smets, 2017). This paper analyzes the change of attitudes towards politics in university students of the Degree of Communication after applying collaborative learning experiences between students of the first-year course of Political Science and students of second-year course of Journalistic Genres. This is the result of a project of educational innovation implemented at the University Loyola Andalucía, in Spain. Collaboration between students is aimed at setting up a collective blog about concepts and current political issues intended for high school students. The effects of the project on the attitudes towards politics among the university students involved are measured through a mixed methodology. On the one hand, a survey based on the IEA Civic Education Study questionnaire (Schulz and Sibberns, 2004) was administered both before and after the project of educational innovation was implemented. On the other hand, focus groups were also conducted in both referred moments. Our teaching experience lectures about how to create spaces for political socialization in a context characterized by a low level of interest in politics among young people.

  1. “Towards a Coaching Style of Teaching – Insights from a facilitated study project in political science.”
    Sandra Brunsbach (University of Kiel, Germany) and Ines Weber (Christian Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany)

Course concepts in political science still focus on the communication of thematically arranged contents instead of competence development. Yet, many postgraduate students do not have sufficient methodological skills as well as social competencies to jointly conduct empirical research in political science.
Despite numerous lectures on research methods and complementary lab sessions, students experience their methodological training as too abstract and detached from any practical use. Due to the separation into single course topics, students gain only limited insights into the research process as a whole. At first glance, it may come as a surprise that limited methodological competence does not hinder students to hold strong believes about “correct” and “wrong” methods. We believe that the lack of methodological proficiency leads to research dogmatism based on prevalent stereotypes (e.g. of qualitative research) and an overemphasis of single quality criteria (e.g. sample size).
Research in political science is almost exclusively a collaborative undertaking that requires reflections on group processes and coordinated action. However, typical classes and examination forms do not encourage students to intensify teamwork during their studies. The students have little or no opportunity to acquire the social competencies required to master such a major task assignment

The facilitated study project: Concerning the challenges above, we designed a systemic learning approach including principles of action learning and coaching. Self-directed student-teams undergo a whole research process under supervision of experienced researchers and coaches. While teaching projects already have a long history, there are three distinct features of our concept worth mentioning. First, the teams had, apart from three compulsory weekend-events, extensive decision latitude to develop own research questions, to conduct and to report their empirical research. Still, they could attend the lecturers’ consultation hours any time to discuss scientific challenges. Second, during the compulsory events, students were interactively taught on a wide array of methodological aspects. Moreover, mutual learning was fostered e.g by practicing scientific forms of communication. The teams discussed intermediate results in a poster session and they presented their projects in a public student conference including conference paper and peer-discussants. Third and most important, we integrated a professional team-coaching by external coaches to facilitate self-reflections on group dynamics and tensions as well as constructive ways to solve them. At the end of the semester each student team submitted a project report on the conducted research as well as on the group processes and obstacles they have faced.

Outlook: Implemented for the first time in 2017, the course evaluation revealed a high satisfaction and rich learning experiences. A variety of interpersonal issues such as dissimilarity in conscientiousness or a lack in temporal consensus led to tensions or conflicts that required facilitating support. However, it turned out that coaching demand exceeded supply. This raises the questions in how far the use of process management tools or the implementation of work process like scrum could support the teams as well by internalizing the idea of coaching.

P282: New Designs for Political Science Teaching

This panel aimed to enable academic instructors who would like to share their designs for new classes, courses or units in Political Science and International Relations but who have not yet had an opportunity to deliver those to students. Designs inspired by/applying particular concepts, theories or approaches from Political Science, International Relations, Education or other disciplines are particularly welcome. If the authors present these as innovative designs, they should highlight the innovative elements. Equally sought are examples of collaborative teaching and learning undertaken at two or more institutions. The panel also expects to host other presenters discussing ways to enrich the student learning experience beyond what is offered at their home institutions or in their pedagogic contexts.

Chair: Rama Venkatasawmy (University of Newcastle, UK)

1. “Are we doing them a dis-service? Preparing students to study overseas: a case study of Chinese students and British Culture.”
Alistair Jones (De Montfort University, UK)

This paper explores the issue of teaching students in their home countries, as preparation for them to be able to study overseas. It will do this through a case study of teaching a module in English language to Chinese students (although other experiences will also be noted). The module is on ‘British Culture’. The aim is to give students an awareness of life in the UK so they will experience less culture shock when they come to the UK, and be able to integrate better into UK student life. At the same time, the experience of different approaches to the delivery of education is built into the delivery of the module.

There are a number of issues around this approach. Firstly there is the issue of content. What content should be taught to these students? There are a range of topics that could be covered, but these may be constrained by time pressures. Secondly, there is the way in which the students are taught. In the UK, there are a range of innovative methods to teach students, including flipped classrooms and co-creative learning. The problem is the vast majority of Chinese students have only experience of a lecturer standing at the front of the class, with no interaction between lecturer and students beyond a monologue. Noting that a number of these students will come to the UK to study, there is an issue over the way in which they are taught. The innovations in the UK (and elsewhere) leave many overseas students like a fish out of water. There is a clear concern over inclusivity. This is before the third issue is even encountered: language skills. In the case study, there is the situation of a European lecturer conducting classes in English, on the subject of British Culture. There is a language in which there is varied proficiency in class on a subject about which the vast majority of students know absolutely nothing. To be able to study in the UK, there are minimum standards of English proficiency. There may be a question as to whether these standards are sufficient for students to be able to study effectively in the UK.

To make things more complicated, the whole teaching structure in the case study is devised in the standard Chinese format. It is very intensive. There are three one-hour lectures every morning (Monday to Friday). Each student will have two one-hour seminars during the week. On top of this there is also assessment. There are very obvious time pressures.

This paper will explore the different pressures placed on both staff and students in such a scenario. Underpinning the whole paper is the question of: what could be done better? To what extent, if at all, are we doing these students a dis-service? Or, alternatively, what needs to be done better to enable these students to study more effectively?

  1. Teaching Middle East politics with movies and documentaries: exogenous and endogenous perspectives.”
    Beatriz Tomé Alonso (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain) and Lucia Ferreiro Prado (Instituto de Empresa, Spain)

Teaching International Relations and Political Science using movies is increasingly popular. The use of this pedagogical tool has relevant advantages that I want to point out. First, movies and other visual materials can help students to move from a theoretical and narrative discussion to a more specific and empirical arena. As pointed out by Gregg (1999:129), movies constitute a “window on the world” that “engage our attention by dramatizing and personalizing ideas and events, build bridges to increasingly remote but still important times, and serve as catalysts for debate and further inquiry window on the world that should not be dismissed lightly”. In this way, a plurality of messages and political/international positions on a topic may emerge beyond the most widespread discourses. Also, movies and documentaries can be seen as cultura products themselves. As such, they “establish a discourse of identity politics as the frame of reference for world politics” and “highlight the relationship between knowledge and power” (Campbell, 2013). From this perspective, movies and documentaries can be de-constructed to unveil the power relations they establish. This research contributes to the debate on media and power narratives and presents an useful tool to use either in the classroom or by spectators themselves.

  1. “The self-experiment as a novel method for introducing public sociology in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.”
    Ines Gottschalk and Sabrina Zajak (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany)

Since Michael Burawoys’ presidential address (2004) the meaning and relevance of public sociology in social and political science is highly debated (e.g. Nölke 2017). Still, public sociology is rarely meaningfully applied in university courses. This presentation suggests, if taken serious as reflexive collective knowledge production of general relevance, a great and underexplored potential for students to go beyond the “teaching and learning” paradigm. We propose a novel method, we call participatory self- experiment, which borrows insights form public sociology and participatory action research. It strongly stresses the collective and reflexive co-production of knowledge through living practices. Students, together with the teacher and practitioners, develop an innovative research strategy exploring social practices (e.g. civic engagement, sustainable living), by introducing those new practices into their own lives and systematically documenting (research diary) and collectively discussing experiences made and knowledge created. Taking the example of a course on civic engagement, the collective reflections made over a period of three month, reveal deep learning effects of the students and a meaningful public output in terms of transformative social change in the actions and practices of students and their environments, which cannot simply be obtained by interviews or participant observations. Our contribution, however, also points out challenges and limitations using this approach in an university teaching environment, which is still limited by hierarchical structures, limiting the possibilities of co-constitution of knowledge through participatory self-experiments.

  1. “A Student-Instructor Collaborative Course Design and Application for Teaching Digital Democracy.”
    Laura Elena Sibinescu, University of Helsinki

The concept of digital democracy has enjoyed increasing scholarly attention over the last decade, but remains a surprisingly scarce presence in political science teaching. In both MOOCs and more traditional course syllabi found online the concept tends to be presented as theoretical support for marginally related, but more actively studied topics, such as political communication through social media, e-government or the legal implications of cyber-security. The premise of this paper is that, due to its nature, there is a limit to how well students can understand the concept of digital democracy through a theoretical, passive lens. Instead, there is more value in encouraging them to observe digital democracy in action, and then draw theoretical conclusions to shape their own understanding. This approach fits well within the frameworks of active learning and participatory pedagogy, so the instructional design outlined in this paper draws on both.

The course, currently in its first design stages, targets students enrolled in several international Master’s degree programs at the University of Helsinki, with backgrounds in political science, communication, and regional studies. Teaching is expected to follow three stages. First, students are given some baseline theoretical knowledge about the concept. Following up, they work together with the instructor to decide on the topics that will be explored throughout the course, based on their own interests and the idea of using information gained empirically to enrich their basic theoretical knowledge. The result of this stage should be a collaborative syllabus that the instructor puts together and distributes to the class. Thirdly, through most of the teaching period (4-5 weeks) the course follows this collaborative syllabus in a practice-oriented way, by studying concrete examples of digital democracy at work and drawing theoretical conclusions at the end of each session. In this paper I present the teaching needs and course integration in the political science curriculum at the University of Helsinki, discuss course design and evaluation principles, and suggest examples of classroom activities. The innovative aspect of this design lies in giving students the opportunity to shape the way they learn about a complex and rather diffuse concept. Ideally the process should not only help them build critical and analytical skills, but also enhance their agency and self-confidence in the learning process. From the instructional perspective, this approach has not yet been used at the university’s Political Science department. If successful, it may encourage the development of similar collaborative designs for other courses.

  1. “Rethinking the Way We Teach: knowledge that is interpretive, pragmatic and obtained through deliberation.”
    Anita Chadha (University of Houston, Downtown, USA)

Increasing research is emerging about the use of technological aids to further class goals as educators evaluate how to effectively use these various techno-aids in an ever-changing classroom. The goal of the panel is to consider and discuss the use of varied forms of technology that would provide support of differing deliberative and practice oriented learning techniques. Based on the Interpretive Policy Analysis Conference theme that knowledge that is interpretive, pragmatic and obtained through deliberation is more valid and reliable and has a better chance to be accepted by policy makers. Using the dimensions as the conference calls for, – interpretation, deliberation, practice-orientation – into dialogue again this panel would encourage research that extends across the social sciences and applied to a vast range of policy topics, the panel would be grounded in promoting greater understanding of high-impact deliberative and practice oriented practices and innovative methodologies for any kind of classroom domestically and internationally. The panel provides a forum for scholars to participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning, share pedagogical techniques, and discuss trends in long-distance education. We would welcome proposals from educators at all levels who teach political science and related subjects—university faculty and administrators, high school teachers, graduate students, research scholars, and others.

P058: Citizenship and Higher Education

Citizenship is a key term in times of globalisation, transnationalism, migration and multi-level governance. Higher education plays a key role in the citizenship education, therefor how we prepare teachers at universities and how we prepare our students for their community life is highly important. This panel included papers that discuss good practice in citizenship education and the use of innovative approaches to teaching citizenship as part of Political Science curriculum.

Chair: Chris Goldsmith (De Montfort University, UK)

1. “South African Schools and Democracy Education: The Role of Teaching Methods and Classroom Environment.”
David Denemark (University of Western Australia, Australia), Robert Mattes (University of Strathclyde, UK), Richard Niemi (University of Rochester, USA), and Graham Brown (University of Western Australia, Australia)

South Africa’s first generation of citizens to complete their education in post-apartheid schools is less supportive of democracy than older generations who struggled against apartheid and fought to build the new Republic. This is the case despite having taken a civics education module designed to impart knowledge about and an appreciation for the nation’s new democratic system and citizenship in it. We use original 2012 surveys of 11th grade students and their teachers of the Life Orientations civics education module in 45 metropolitan Cape Town schools to explore the impact of the module itself and the approach recommended by recent civic education research, which places more importance on the classroom environment in which schools and teachers train students in democracy than the substance of what they actually teach. We have found in previous research that students’ low levels of support for democracy can be traced in large part to the failure of schools to impart basic facts about South African politics and an appreciation of the role of active, critical, and peaceful participation by citizens. In this paper, we test whether inclusive and participatory teaching styles have a direct effect in making students more democratic or, alternatively, have an indirect effect in allowing teachers to “teach the facts” about South Africa’s new democratic, or, indeed, have a negligible effect overall on student learning. All told, this paper provides important insights into the broader question: can the young “learn democracy” and the responsibilities and norms of citizenship in new democracies.

  1. “In Our Hands: Crisis, Community-Based Schooling and the Prefigurative Politics of Citizenship in Argentina.”
    Kai Heidemann (Maastricht Universiteit, the Netherlands)

Can community-based education effectively generate innovative and empowering forms of democratic citizenship? In this paper I take a look at how the onset of a large-scale crisis and corresponding wave of widespread social protest influenced the emergence of a community-based schooling movement in Argentina during the early 2000s. Particular attention is given to the discursive and organizational practices of the grassroots actors who orchestrated the rise of a network of alternative community-based schools in the urban context of Buenos Aires. Drawing on several years of research, the discussions looks at how the severe macro-structural instabilities and widespread social grievances associated with the climaxing of a national crisis during 2001-02 spilled over into the educational sector and created opportune conditions for the production of prefigurative forms of collective action and mobilization. Merging the study of social movements and citizenship with the sociology of education, I explain how/why the phenomenon of community-based schooling evolved into an expansive, cohesive and purposeful ‘movement’ oriented toward the Argentine state and the promotion of broader education reform agendas rooted in progressive notions of social justice, cooperativism and democratic citizenship. By way of conclusion I discuss some of the major challenges and dilemmas which have stifled the growth of the community-based schooling movement since the 2000s.

  1. “Does Deliberative Education Increase Civic Competence? Results From a Field Experiment.”
    Mikael Persson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Much research in the political science literature has been devoted to study the relationship between education and civic outcomes such as political participation and political knowledge (Berinsky and Lenz, 2011; Kam and Palmer, 2008; Persson, 2015; Lindgren, Oskarsson and Dawes, 2017; Nie, Junn and Stehlik-Barry, 1996). However, far less research has focused on which kinds of teaching practices that are most effective when it comes to increasing such outcomes. There is a consensus in the literature that the citizenry need at least some basic level of civic competence; such as a baseline level of political knowledge, adherence to democratic norms and that many enough are ready to participate in political activities (Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, 2002; Lupia, 2015).
Hence, it has been argued that a central task for social science studies is to not only teach the students knowledge and skills but also encourage them to reflect and develop their views on political and democratic issues and principles (Galston, 2004). Deliberative teaching is one such method to achieve this aim. Deliberative teaching is, a bit simplified, teaching that encourages the students to discuss and listen to each others arguments in contrast to a traditional teacher centered teaching style (Samuelsson and Bøyum, 2015; Englund, 2000, 2006).

In this paper we show results from a field experiment in which we compare the effects of deliberative teaching versus teacher centered teaching. The experiment was conducted among about 1,200 students in 50 school classes in Swedish upper secondary schools. We test the effects on a set of different civic competencies; political values, political interest, political knowledge, and intended political participation. The results indicate that deliberative education has some positive impact on political knowledge. However, the differences between controls and treated are small on most outcome variables, indicating that deliberation might not necessarily have the strong effect hypothesized in educational theory.

  1. “Using service-learning to build social capital for civic and political engagement– A UK case study.”
    Alasdair Blair and Mark Charlton (De Montfort University, UK)

Questions have been raised by political scholars in recent years over ways to engage young people in civic and political issues in light of a growing intergenerational divide between voters. Many theorists have linked the activity of volunteering and building civic participation amongst young people by identifying distinct connections between participants and their likelihood to make further positive contributions to public life and civic engagement. While there is much evidence to suggest general volunteering can build social capital, few studies have considered the university’s role in building good citizenship – despite the responsibility of creating good citizens being considered one of the public goods of higher education. At De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom, an innovative outreach programme, known as DMU Square Mile, has been developed over several years which gives hundred of young people volunteering or service-learning opportunities, typically linked to their courses. The volunteering is done in collaboration with the local authority and other partners, seeking to address some of the diverse challenges currently facing the city of Leicester. This paper seeks to identify what impact of a focused university programme of service-learning and volunteering has on young people’s attitudes to civic and political issues. It will consider changes in attitudes to voting, likelihood of future civic participation or social activism as well as personal learning outcomes and skills development. The findings will demonstrate whether a focused university approach to service-learning can aid higher education’s commitment to create the good citizens of the future who are engaged in political issues, locally and nationally.

  1. “Civic education and academic engagement: Identifying the impacts of a university-wide political engagement campaign.”
    Alasdair Blair, Chris Goldsmith, and Mark Charlton (De Montfort University, UK)

Of the political science literature that has focused on civic and political engagement, a number of studies have analysed the impact of voter education drives and student participation in political campaigns as methods of creating a more engaged academic community. These studies tend to report findings from initiatives that are more often than not located at the individual class level where a tutor has organised a series of events that seek to impart a greater level of knowledge on the student body. By contrast, there is a relative dearth of studies which focus on broader university level initiatives that promote political engagement. This paper seeks to address this lacuna by reporting on the findings of a political engagement campaign that was undertaken at De Montfort University in the UK in the run-up to the 2017 General Election. In the advance of a United Kingdom General Election in 2017, there was concern amongst politicians, academics and the media that political engagement amongst 18-25 year olds was particularly low compared with other demographic groups. Amongst the issues highlighted was the apathy of young people towards going to the ballot box during the United Kingdom’s European Union Membership Referendum. In this specific voting context the age of the voter was viewed by many political thinkers as significant because there was concern that the largest number of voters, aged 55-years upwards, may not have to live or work with the outcomes of their voting decision in 20-30 years’ time. To address this challenge the University organised a series of events under the campaign banner of ‘Be the Change’ in reference to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” quote. A series of profile-raising activities, including open-mike style debates and critiques of party manifestos were held. These events attempted to pull apart key political policies that were being promoted in advance of the 2017 General Election. This in turn led to the creation of a manifesto of policy suggestions from the university’s academic and professional staff, which was in turn shared with the major political parties and took place in tandem with an on campus voter-registration drive. This paper seeks to explore the impacts of creating a culture of political engagement for students, looking at what they learned, changes in voter patterns, trust in the political process and whether they felt they could ‘Be the Change’ or whether the political debates had left them feeling less engaged with the process.

P425: Teaching Politics in the Digital Classroom

Teaching politics in a digital classroom: Take a look around modern seminar rooms and you will see the ease with which students navigate the digital world. This offers new opportunities for courses and course design. This panel will discuss the possibilities and challenges of this development and encourages an exchange of ideas, experiences and concepts e.g. MOOC’s, Big Data and Skype.

Chair: Nanette S. Levinson, American University (USA)

  1. “Learners’ motivations as incentives for participating Political Science MOOC.”
    Pierre Baudewyns, Jehan Bottin, Vincent Legrand, Min Reuchamps, and Nathalie Schiffino-Leclercq  (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium)

Although meant to be ‘open’, hence equally accessible for everyone, it goes without saying that MOOCs’ challenge democracy within learning processes. Learners are dissimilar on various levels, which might affect their learning outcomes. In this paper, we focus on one particular parameter: learners’ motivation. Considered as the most important factor to consider in research on education, we want to explore what motivates learners to enroll in a MOOC. Although previous research on achievement motivation supports the existence of two types of motivations, MOOCs are not entirely comparable to traditional education as they are freely open to everyone. A wider variety of motivations might then stimulate learners to enroll in a course. Four main reasons of enrollment are typically highlighted in the literature by now, namely: the desire to learn about a new topic or to extend current knowledge, curiosity about MOOCs, for a personal challenge, and the desire to collect as many completion certificates as possible (Khe Foon Hew and Chung, 2014). The first aim in this study is to explore what groups of MOOC learners can be identified based on motivation. A typology of learners may help in better understanding the learning processes and their democratic challenges. Given that research on MOOCs has mainly focused on the macro level leading to a high heterogeneity in the courses analyzed, we want to control for this bias by focusing solely on one particular MOOC namely “Louv3X: Découvrir la science politique’ (Discovering political science), which has now be ran for six editions. Furthermore, it is worth noting that professors are increasingly using MOOCs in their classes in a type of blended learning. Therefore, we choose to focus on a MOOC that was also used on university campus in order to see whether the students’ population can be compared to online learners or whether their motivation is clearly dissimilar. Next, we seek to investigate whether belonging to a certain motivation group has an influence on the learners’ performance. Finally, we hypothesize that the learners’ motivation influences their appreciation of the course design.

  1. “Digital Technology in Teaching – Short Skype Calls.”
    Barbora Padrtova (Masaryk University, Czechia)

The proper use of digital technologies in teaching can have a positive impact on achieving students’ results and their education. Through interactive engagement, students gain the opportunity to directly participate in learning, which at the same time increases their interest and motivation. The presentation will focus on the use of short video Skype calls with experts in the class and how this input can enrich the courses. The aim of the presentation is to share best practices as well as potential pitfalls which the introduction of this element into teaching might bring.

Incorporating of digital technologies in teaching might not always be an easy task. Through sharing the best practices, the presenter will provide a necessary information for the conference participants to be able to whether or not to use a Skype call as one of the teaching tools in the class. The presenter will also discuss the difficulty of preparing for the Skype calls in perspective of both the teacher and the students.

  1. “Teaching Interdisciplinary and Critical Digital Political Science.”
    Tim Griebel (Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany)

The social sciences are, as Gary King (2014) observes, “undergoing a dramatic transformation from studying problems to solving them; from making do with a small number of sparse data sets to analyzing increasing quantities of diverse, highly informative data from isolated scholars toiling away on their own to larger scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary, lab-style research teams; and from a purely academic pursuit focused inward to having a major impact on public policy, commerce and industry”. Accordingly, “interdisciplinarity” is an important buzzword in the discussion of the study and teaching of real world problems nowadays, especially when “big data” is concerned. Interdisciplinarity and the use of computational methods in order to analyze a great amount of data can be compared to a language game that has to be learnt and practiced as soon as possible to be able to critically reflect upon and take advantage of the transformation described by King. This contribution describes the experiences from an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, that brings together scholars and students from different disciplines (political science, corpus linguistics, English studies and social geography so far). The special thing about this course is that all participants are working with the same empirical dataset that consists of approximately 20,000 texts from the British Guardian and Daily Telegraph that deal with austerity. The common empirical footing is especially helpful in order to enhance students’ interdisciplinary understanding in the areas of disciplinary grounding, integration and critical thinking by a) enabling the students to use corpus linguistic methods to answer discipline relevant questions (e.g. the role of parties for political scientists or the articulation of space for social geography), b) by enabling the students to undertake philosophical reflections about the integration of knowledge from different disciplines by discussing the importance of meta-theoretical foundations (ontology, epistemology and methodology) for empirical research and c) by enabling students to critically reflect upon the possibilities and limits of digital methods and interdisciplinarity in the social sciences. The contribution will also describe the quantitative (surveys) and qualitative tools (semi-structured interviews) that will be used to assess the interdisciplinary learning achievements in respect to these broad goals.

  1. “Communication and Media Education in an Era of Big Data.”
    Rama Venkatasawmy (University of Newcastle, UK)

Fundamental aspects of work carried out in the communication, media and creative industries are increasingly being influenced by intense data-centric occurrences. The enormous amount of information generated by and about netizens, bloggers, tweeters, instagrammers, online service providers and retailers, shoppers, subscribers and consumers constitutes Big Data – which has to be categorized, mixed, scrutinized and processed in order for substantial indications, extrapolations and inferences to be derived that will subsequently shape production processes and output in the media, communication and creative industries (such as television, journalism, advertising and public relations). Continuously expanding Big Data as well as the computing and quantifying data-driven methods associated with its collection, examination and depiction bear explicit resonance in comprehending the intersection of communication, media and creative industries with technology and society. This inevitably has to be assimilated into the contemporary teaching of communication and media courses and programs in higher education contexts. It has become vital for educators to ensure that contemporary communication and media students fully understand why and how large-scale datasets are collected, analyzed and interpreted so as to make sense of and to create value out of digital information. Big Data has now to be not simply addressed but fully incorporated into communication and media education, essentially to prepare future generations of communication and media professionals in being able to analyze, understand and apply Big Data in decision- making and when generating output within various sections of the media, communication and creative industries. It is necessary to include Big Data in the teaching curriculum of communication and media courses and programs because Big Data developments are already impacting strongly on the ways of doing and of knowing, as well as on the negotiation of value and on ethical considerations within the communication, media and creative industries.

    Nanette S. Levinson (American University, USA)

Gupta et. al. (2017) document the strong increase in publications related to mobile learning from 2007-2016. Indeed, since the advent of MOOCs in 2008 and their growing family from cMOOCs to SPOCs, on-line learning and virtual classrooms are central topics to higher education leaders globally and locally. Numerous external factors including the production of new and converging technologies, the costs of building and maintaining brick and mortar higher education classrooms, and even student demand have led administrators to consider on-line and blended learning options for their previously traditional albeit diverse campuses. At the same time, we have witnessed an increased focus on assessment and student learning outcomes in traditional as well as less traditional classrooms. The field of political science education is no different. The Journal of Political Science Education provides an excellent example of the growth of interest in teaching and learning in our field as does the 2015 publication of the Handbook of Teaching and Learning in Political Science and International Relations, edited by Ishiyama, Miller, and Simon.

Today there are myriad studies of on-line learning within and across borders. This paper reports on a cross-national study of internet-facilitated innovations and uses a diffusion of innovation framework. It also provides a comprehensive review of on-line related innovations in political science both at undergraduate and graduate levels. Particular attention is paid to the new roles of the private sector as partner in certain of the on-line innovations. Examples of partners (both public and private) include 2U, EdX, and Coursera. There is a need to examine innovations in which these organizations partner with higher education institutions and to determine their preliminary impacts. Additionally, this paper will examine their specific impacts upon the field of international relations and upon the international relations/political science classroom. Little research examines innovations in terms of these significant partnerships. There is also scant research that examines the cultural and cross-cultural aspects of these innovations or the role of international organizations in the dissemination of these learning innovations. Finally, the paper provides an evidence-based and future-oriented view of potential long-term impacts on the field of international relations/political science as well as the education of the next generation of international relations/political science professors.

ECPR Plenary Roundtable, ‘When Does Teaching Matter in Academic (Career) Development?’

Time: 14:30-15:30, Thursday, 23 August
Location: Lecture Hall B, VMP 5

Chair: Heidi Maurer (London School of Economics and Politics Science, UK)


  • Petr Suchý (Masaryk University, Czechia)
  • Ariadna Ripoll Servent (University of Bamberg, Germany)
  • Ian Manners (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Karolina Pomorska (University of Leiden, Netherlands

Further details about the roundtable is available on the ECPR website.


TLP-organized panels at past ECPR conferences

Hamburg (2018):

  • Innovating Political Science
  • Evidence-based Teaching in Political Science
  • New Designs for Political Science Teaching
  • Citizenship and Higher Education
  • Teaching Politics in the Digital Classroom

We also organized a plenary roundtable entitled, When Does Teaching Matter in Academic (Career) Development?

Oslo (2017):

  • Evidence-based teaching in Political Science
  • Transformation of the Political Studies profession – What does it mean to be an active academic in the current era? (as a joint panel with the SG Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation – PHERI)
  • Innovating Political Science Education
  • Teaching Politics through Art and Popular Culture ( as a joint panel with Politics and Art group)
  • New designs for Political Science teaching
  • Teaching and learning analytical skills in Political Science
  • Working With Practitioners (employability, placements and service learning)

We also organized a plenary roundtable about The Consequences of the Internationalization of Political Science Education.

Prague (2016):

  • Bridging Two Worlds: Political Theory through Movies
  • Innovating Political Science Education
  • Reimagining MOOCs: Online Learning Opportunities and Challenges for 2016 and Beyond
  • Teaching International Relations with Movies

Montreal (2015):

  • The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Teaching Political Science Methods and Politics in the Times of Transformation
  • The 21th Century Teacher: Theoretical Approaches and Ongoing Didactical Debates in Teaching Political Science

Glasgow (2014):

  • Teaching Research Methods

Bordeaux (2013):

  • Graduate Education in Political Science
  • Teaching Research Skills
  • Developing Quality Assessment
  • Innovating Political Science Education
  • Information Technology in Teaching, Online Teaching and Online Degree

Reykyavik (2011):

  • Advancing Political Science Education in Europe. How can ECPR Support their Members in their Work as Political Science Teachers
  • How to Get published about Teaching and Student Learning

Potsdam (2009):

  • Introducing IT to Facilitate Engagement and Interaction in Undergraduate Politics Courses