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Fostering Active Learning in Research Methods Courses Through the Use of Survey Research Projects
Unformatted Document Text:  Fostering Active Learning in Research Methods Courses Through the Use of Survey Research Projects Jeff R. DeWitt Department of Political Science and International Affairs Kennesaw State University 1000 Chastain Road Kennesaw, GA 30144, #2205 Abstract The challenge of poor student engagement is no greater than in political science research methods courses. The goal for instructors is, therefore, to develop pedagogic techniques and class assignments that enhance the learning experience. Scholarship has demonstrated how an “active learning” approach may effectively fill divides and connect mismatches between instructor, student, and the learning process. In this paper, I outline a proposal for active learning and enhancing student engagement in research methods courses through the use of survey research projects. This semester-long group project requires students form groups in which they design and administer public opinion questionnaires that examine the political and - or social attitudes of the university community. Following data collection, students analyze the data and report key findings to the class in a final presentation. Each step along the way requires students apply key concepts in a practical way toward completion of the assignment. While many students are well-versed in substantive subject matters, this is often their first opportunity to actually do political science, to serve as principle investigators by independently answering research questions in a scientifically valid manner. As such, this project may serve as an active learning tool, which is highly instructive and also empowering for both students and instructors. Prepared for delivery at the American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose, February, 2008.

Authors: DeWitt, Jeff.
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Fostering Active Learning in Research Methods Courses
Through the Use of Survey Research Projects



Jeff R. DeWitt
Department of Political Science and International Affairs
Kennesaw State University
1000 Chastain Road
Kennesaw, GA 30144, #2205



Abstract
The challenge of poor student engagement is no greater than in political science research
methods courses. The goal for instructors is, therefore, to develop pedagogic techniques
and class assignments that enhance the learning experience. Scholarship has
demonstrated how an “active learning” approach may effectively fill divides and connect
mismatches between instructor, student, and the learning process. In this paper, I outline
a proposal for active learning and enhancing student engagement in research methods
courses through the use of survey research projects. This semester-long group project
requires students form groups in which they design and administer public opinion
questionnaires that examine the political and - or social attitudes of the university
community. Following data collection, students analyze the data and report key findings
to the class in a final presentation. Each step along the way requires students apply key
concepts in a practical way toward completion of the assignment. While many students
are well-versed in substantive subject matters, this is often their first opportunity to
actually do political science, to serve as principle investigators by independently
answering research questions in a scientifically valid manner. As such, this project may
serve as an active learning tool, which is highly instructive and also empowering for both
students and instructors.




Prepared for delivery at the American Political Science Association Teaching and
Learning Conference, San Jose, February, 2008.





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