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Serving the Greater Good: Delivering General Education Outcomes in a Small Liberal Arts College
Unformatted Document Text:  Integration of methodological approaches is central to the program’s efficiency and effectiveness. For example, we offer two courses in comparative politics: POLS/HIST 317 History and Comparative Politics of Contemporary Europe and History and POLS/HIST 338 Comparative Politics of Latin America 30 . The courses rotate every year, thus giving two opportunities to the students to complete this core requirement in the political science program. The two courses share readings on doing comparative politics as well as the basic developmental design of the group class project. 31 These courses give us the opportunity to move from comparative thinking into a comparative analysis. Concepts and theory of comparative politics are now incorporated into the class readings. After multiple discussions on how to best incorporate this methodology in the program, and given our limitations, we concluded that the comparative analysis will be conducted in groups as opposed to individual comparative projects. 32 Clearly, there are challenges associated with allowing and, in fact, encouraging non- majors to enroll in upper level courses in political science. Often these students must acclimate to a different disciplinary literature and to different methods for analyzing political phenomena. We are encouraged overall that each upper level course provides a process whereby each student is on a level playing field. Many non-majors bring new perspectives and analytic skills which challenge majors to expand their horizons regarding how to understand various political concepts and problems. Also, as both groups attempt to acquire the more advanced analytic and research skills appropriate to the course, majors generally benefit dramatically from re-visiting key concepts, seminal approaches, and methods which they may have taken for granted in lower level courses. It is also important to note that political science majors now have sought more opportunities in more demanding upper level courses outside of Political Science or the Humanities, especially in Economics, Psychology, and Mass Communications. Serving Two Masters: Demonstrating College and Disciplinary Learning Outcomes The argument contained in the project asserts that small departments are confronted by a false dichotomy, to serve as a service department or to focus on delivering a strong structured political science curriculum. We argue that it is indeed possible to serve two masters: 1) to meet 30 POLS/HIST 338 Comparative Politics of Latin America is also required of all students in the Spanish major program. This has turned out to be a wonderful development in the classroom. The cross-fertilization of disciplinary knowledge has improved the overall quality of class discussion. Additionally, the students in the Spanish major have the opportunity to do so readings and research in the Spanish. 31 Lim (2006). 32 The research project in the comparative courses utilizes collaborative learning through a group project. The division of labor for the group project is carefully designed to provide a developmental model, but also to require individual application of comparative methods as well as requiring group application of these approaches. This strategy is particularly delicate, since we immediately realized the potential challenges of having a considerable number of non-majors in these courses. Although the projects differ in content, the project structure is quite similar. First, students individually research basic statistics about their country, followed by a short country analysis essay. In the essay, the students incorporate primary and secondary sources. This essay serves as the foundation for the group comparison project, which is presented as a power point presentation. For example, in the Latin America course, the three main themes studied throughout the semester guide this project: governance, liberty and development. To facilitate the student preparation for the final group project as well as instructor assistance, class time is devoted to develop the project. The students report their findings in a PowerPoint presentation the last week of classes. In addition to the instructor, another faculty in the department attends the formal presentation. The second faculty person later participates in the assessment of the communication component in our program. Lopez & McKinlay, 14

Authors: Lopez, Lillian. and McKinlay, Patrick.
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Integration of methodological approaches is central to the program’s efficiency and
effectiveness. For example, we offer two courses in comparative politics: POLS/HIST 317
History and Comparative Politics of Contemporary Europe and History and POLS/HIST 338
Comparative Politics of Latin America
. The courses rotate every year, thus giving two
opportunities to the students to complete this core requirement in the political science program.
The two courses share readings on doing comparative politics as well as the basic developmental
design of the group class project.
These courses give us the opportunity to move from
comparative thinking into a comparative analysis. Concepts and theory of comparative politics
are now incorporated into the class readings. After multiple discussions on how to best
incorporate this methodology in the program, and given our limitations, we concluded that the
comparative analysis will be conducted in groups as opposed to individual comparative
projects.
Clearly, there are challenges associated with allowing and, in fact, encouraging non-
majors to enroll in upper level courses in political science. Often these students must acclimate
to a different disciplinary literature and to different methods for analyzing political phenomena.
We are encouraged overall that each upper level course provides a process whereby each student
is on a level playing field. Many non-majors bring new perspectives and analytic skills which
challenge majors to expand their horizons regarding how to understand various political concepts
and problems. Also, as both groups attempt to acquire the more advanced analytic and research
skills appropriate to the course, majors generally benefit dramatically from re-visiting key
concepts, seminal approaches, and methods which they may have taken for granted in lower
level courses. It is also important to note that political science majors now have sought more
opportunities in more demanding upper level courses outside of Political Science or the
Humanities, especially in Economics, Psychology, and Mass Communications.
Serving Two Masters: Demonstrating College and Disciplinary Learning Outcomes
The argument contained in the project asserts that small departments are confronted by a
false dichotomy, to serve as a service department or to focus on delivering a strong structured
political science curriculum. We argue that it is indeed possible to serve two masters: 1) to meet
30
POLS/HIST 338 Comparative Politics of Latin America is also required of all students in the Spanish major
program. This has turned out to be a wonderful development in the classroom. The cross-fertilization of disciplinary
knowledge has improved the overall quality of class discussion. Additionally, the students in the Spanish major have
the opportunity to do so readings and research in the Spanish.
31
Lim (2006).
32
The research project in the comparative courses utilizes collaborative learning through a group project. The
division of labor for the group project is carefully designed to provide a developmental model, but also to require
individual application of comparative methods as well as requiring group application of these approaches. This
strategy is particularly delicate, since we immediately realized the potential challenges of having a considerable
number of non-majors in these courses. Although the projects differ in content, the project structure is quite similar.
First, students individually research basic statistics about their country, followed by a short country analysis essay.
In the essay, the students incorporate primary and secondary sources. This essay serves as the foundation for the
group comparison project, which is presented as a power point presentation. For example, in the Latin America
course, the three main themes studied throughout the semester guide this project: governance, liberty and
development. To facilitate the student preparation for the final group project as well as instructor assistance, class
time is devoted to develop the project. The students report their findings in a PowerPoint presentation the last week
of classes. In addition to the instructor, another faculty in the department attends the formal presentation. The second
faculty person later participates in the assessment of the communication component in our program.
Lopez & McKinlay, 14


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