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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  participate in traditional political activities – attending political meetings, voting, writing letters, and so on. Below we present our results. Our Political Participation Assignments Our data is drawn from 6 classes taught during the 2006-2007 academic year at three different universities in Southern California. In these classes, we experimented with the idea of offering participation assignments in hope that the students would: 1. apply what they learn in the classroom, 2. choose a political science topic that might be of particular interest to them and explore it in greater detail, 3. learn how to develop and exercise their civic skills in hopes that it might increase their confidence in their ability to do so, and 4. find political science in general to be more interesting by delving into special interest topics of their choice and putting things into practice. Four of the classes were taught at California State University, Long Beach. At CSULB students were required to complete “participation assignments” in the following courses: Introduction to American Government (Fall 2006 and Spring 2007), Urban Politics (Spring 2007), and Policymaking (Spring 2007). Both classes of Introduction to American Government at CSULB were large classes (close to 200 students each semester), almost all non-majors, with an average GPA less than 3.0. Most of the students take the course as a breadth requirement, and a full majority of them each term claim to have little to no interest in politics when polled. In Introduction to American Government (Fall 2006) students were required to write a letter to the 10

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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participate in traditional political activities – attending political meetings, voting, writing letters,
and so on. Below we present our results.
Our Political Participation Assignments
Our data is drawn from 6 classes taught during the 2006-2007 academic year at three
different universities in Southern California. In these classes, we experimented with the idea of
offering participation assignments in hope that the students would:
1. apply what they learn in the classroom,
2. choose a political science topic that might be of particular interest to them and explore it
in greater detail,
3. learn how to develop and exercise their civic skills in hopes that it might increase their
confidence in their ability to do so, and
4. find political science in general to be more interesting by delving into special interest
topics of their choice and putting things into practice.
Four of the classes were taught at California State University, Long Beach. At CSULB
students were required to complete “participation assignments” in the following courses:
Introduction to American Government (Fall 2006 and Spring 2007), Urban Politics (Spring
2007), and Policymaking (Spring 2007). Both classes of Introduction to American Government
at CSULB were large classes (close to 200 students each semester), almost all non-majors, with
an average GPA less than 3.0. Most of the students take the course as a breadth requirement, and
a full majority of them each term claim to have little to no interest in politics when polled. In
Introduction to American Government (Fall 2006) students were required to write a letter to the
10


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