ECPR Joint Session on the “Empirical Effects of Active Learning Environments,” University of Nicosia, Cyprus, April 10-15, 2018


  • Simon Usherwood, University of Surrey
  • Peter Bursens, University of Antwerp

A successful ECPR Joint Sessions Workshop on ‘Beyond Descriptions and Good Practices. Empirical Effects of Active Learning Environments on Political Science Students’ Learning Outcomes’ was held in April 2018 in Nicosia. The primary aim of the workshop was to go beyond descriptions and good practices of active learning tools in political science and make the first steps towards identifying a research agenda for political science teaching. Participants were invited to collect empirical data from their active learning environment and apply appropriate methods to explore the effects on learning outcomes.

During the workshop, participants identified five parameters of importance for making sense of educational impact research: the dependent variable (learning outcomes), the independent (student disposition) and intervening variables (active learning method used), methods of data collection and analysis, and the education context. Great variation was found along all five of these parameters.

A three-dimensional projection that can help the political science community to define the puzzles of a future research agenda was derived after discussions. A typical research question for a paper within this agenda would be what effect does active learning environment X in context Y have on learning outcome Z. Furthermore, it was suggested that in that political science research into educational issues would benefit from the theories and methods of academic development and educational science.