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Serving the Greater Good: Delivering General Education Outcomes in a Small Liberal Arts College
Unformatted Document Text:  history, etc. which also emphasizes the perspectives and experiences of diverse groups within the American experience. Second, the faculty adopted a resolution from a task force working on Community Connections that recommended that all students take one course that utilize Service Learning as a key pedagogy within the course. Furthermore, adjustments were made in several areas: specific disciplinary content, writing and effective communication, perspectives and experiences from diverse groups in American society, and experiential learning associated with service learning outside of the classroom. Political Science has made two major adjustments in its curriculum in the past five years. In both cases, the primary motivation was to identify key learning outcomes and to design the curriculum to deliver those outcomes as efficiently as possible. The political science faculty work together to monitor basic content and seek to build a developmental model for the major that strategically duplicates key concepts but intentionally introduces students to increasing levels of sophisticated political science content, concepts, analysis, and basic research methods. 7 One of the benefits of the experience of teaching CORE 220 Twentieth Century World Transformations is that the department faculty identified some common assignment practices that have proven very effective working with first and second year students. 8 Since introducing students to concepts is central to our learning outcomes, many class assignments focus on concept clarification as well as thesis identification and articulation. In addition to a well regarded US government textbook (Greenberg & Page, 2007), the instructor has utilized a variety of readers that introduce students to classic and seminal articles in American political science. Brief writing assignments assist students in acquiring the basic skills for identifying thesis statements and understanding evidentiary claims within these readings. Students early in the semester complete a series of Article Reviews Forms which help them understand the basic concepts, arguments, and the evidence presented in these readings. Students may revise several of these papers in response to faculty feedback. As the semester progresses students write one page article précis which require the students to very succinctly capture the article’s major thesis and content as well as articulate the relationship between the reading and other course content. Assessment indicates that these writing practices are consistent and complementary to activities utilized in the other 100 level first year student courses. 9 Preparing students to identify and understand conceptual knowledge is a fundamental task for POLS 147. While it is obvious that this specific conceptual knowledge is necessary for student success in advanced courses in the discipline, it also supports college learning outcomes associated with effective communication. Turning briefly to specific course content, POLS 147 builds on Greenberg & Page’s (2007) concentration on a structural analytic framework to assist students in making sense of the complexity of United States political behavior. Further, while the textbook makes some cursory mention of many seminal perspectives in the discipline, the course design for POLS 147 intentionally introduces first-year students to a wide-variety of both canonical and contemporary approaches. Further, while the textbook uses a standard definition of democracy which 7 Our approach seems compatible with Wahlke (1991). 8 The team model adopted by the History and Political Science Department also contributed substantially to a collaborative approach and culture within the department. 9 For instance, the first College outcome, “To demonstrate effective communication, both written and oral,” is emphasized particularly in two courses required for all first-year students, MORN 101 Passport and MORN 102 Composition & Communication. These courses emphasize shared inquiry and expository writing. Both POLS 147 and POLS 160 parallel these pedagogical emphases which the College faculty have identified as foundational for the first-year experience. See Appendix B. Lopez & McKinlay, 5

Authors: Lopez, Lillian. and McKinlay, Patrick.
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history, etc. which also emphasizes the perspectives and experiences of diverse groups within the
American experience. Second, the faculty adopted a resolution from a task force working on
Community Connections that recommended that all students take one course that utilize Service
Learning as a key pedagogy within the course. Furthermore, adjustments were made in several
areas: specific disciplinary content, writing and effective communication, perspectives and
experiences from diverse groups in American society, and experiential learning associated with
service learning outside of the classroom.
Political Science has made two major adjustments in its curriculum in the past five years.
In both cases, the primary motivation was to identify key learning outcomes and to design the
curriculum to deliver those outcomes as efficiently as possible. The political science faculty
work together to monitor basic content and seek to build a developmental model for the major
that strategically duplicates key concepts but intentionally introduces students to increasing
levels of sophisticated political science content, concepts, analysis, and basic research methods.
One of the benefits of the experience of teaching CORE 220 Twentieth Century World
Transformations is that the department faculty identified some common assignment practices
that have proven very effective working with first and second year students.
Since introducing
students to concepts is central to our learning outcomes, many class assignments focus on
concept clarification as well as thesis identification and articulation. In addition to a well
regarded US government textbook (Greenberg & Page, 2007), the instructor has utilized a
variety of readers that introduce students to classic and seminal articles in American political
science. Brief writing assignments assist students in acquiring the basic skills for identifying
thesis statements and understanding evidentiary claims within these readings. Students early in
the semester complete a series of Article Reviews Forms which help them understand the basic
concepts, arguments, and the evidence presented in these readings. Students may revise several
of these papers in response to faculty feedback.
As the semester progresses students write one page article précis which require the
students to very succinctly capture the article’s major thesis and content as well as articulate the
relationship between the reading and other course content. Assessment indicates that these
writing practices are consistent and complementary to activities utilized in the other 100 level
first year student courses.
Preparing students to identify and understand conceptual knowledge
is a fundamental task for POLS 147. While it is obvious that this specific conceptual knowledge
is necessary for student success in advanced courses in the discipline, it also supports college
learning outcomes associated with effective communication.
Turning briefly to specific course content, POLS 147 builds on Greenberg & Page’s
(2007) concentration on a structural analytic framework to assist students in making sense of the
complexity of United States political behavior. Further, while the textbook makes some cursory
mention of many seminal perspectives in the discipline, the course design for POLS 147
intentionally introduces first-year students to a wide-variety of both canonical and contemporary
approaches. Further, while the textbook uses a standard definition of democracy which
7
Our approach seems compatible with Wahlke (1991).
8
The team model adopted by the History and Political Science Department also contributed substantially to a
collaborative approach and culture within the department.
9
For instance, the first College outcome, “To demonstrate effective communication, both written and oral,” is
emphasized particularly in two courses required for all first-year students, MORN 101 Passport and MORN 102
Composition & Communication. These courses emphasize shared inquiry and expository writing. Both POLS 147
and POLS 160 parallel these pedagogical emphases which the College faculty have identified as foundational for the
first-year experience. See Appendix B.
Lopez & McKinlay, 5


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