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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  To examine the extent to which these political participation assignments are effective in developing student civic skills, enhancing student learning experience, or converting majors, we draw on three data sources. Our preliminary findings were based on instructor observation and course evaluations. From these two sources alone, the results of the participation assignments appeared to be mixed. Some students absolutely loved the assignments; those that did were those who had a more positive experience. For instance, some attended city council meetings with contentious topics on the agenda (generally unbeknownst to the student before arrival). Others wrote letters to the Los Angeles Times and had them published or others wrote letters to a representative and received a personal response. Overwhelmingly, however, most students felt the assignments to be “a waste of time” because they were calculated into the final course grade, but they did not (according to the students) really help them to learn the material that would be on other exams. As a result, the students saw them to be “busy work.” In order to get a deeper understanding of the effects these assignments had on our students, we designed an on-line survey that was administered ad hoc via email to all six classes. (See Appendix A for the survey.) The survey was sent using the course list-serves during the fall of 2007 to 563 students. The students had 2 weeks to complete the survey; a reminder email was sent out before the deadline. Overall Results The survey had a 38% response rate; 216 students responded. Of course, we recognize that the students that did respond were those who were more likely to have enjoyed the instructor, class, or assignment so in that sense the results are somewhat biased. We were pleased to find, however, that students did overwhelmingly benefit from these assignments. This 13

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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To examine the extent to which these political participation assignments are effective in
developing student civic skills, enhancing student learning experience, or converting majors, we
draw on three data sources. Our preliminary findings were based on instructor observation and
course evaluations. From these two sources alone, the results of the participation assignments
appeared to be mixed. Some students absolutely loved the assignments; those that did were
those who had a more positive experience. For instance, some attended city council meetings
with contentious topics on the agenda (generally unbeknownst to the student before arrival).
Others wrote letters to the Los Angeles Times and had them published or others wrote letters to a
representative and received a personal response. Overwhelmingly, however, most students felt
the assignments to be “a waste of time” because they were calculated into the final course grade,
but they did not (according to the students) really help them to learn the material that would be
on other exams. As a result, the students saw them to be “busy work.”
In order to get a deeper understanding of the effects these assignments had on our
students, we designed an on-line survey that was administered ad hoc via email to all six classes.
(See Appendix A for the survey.) The survey was sent using the course list-serves during the fall
of 2007 to 563 students. The students had 2 weeks to complete the survey; a reminder email was
sent out before the deadline.
Overall Results
The survey had a 38% response rate; 216 students responded. Of course, we recognize
that the students that did respond were those who were more likely to have enjoyed the
instructor, class, or assignment so in that sense the results are somewhat biased. We were
pleased to find, however, that students did overwhelmingly benefit from these assignments. This
13


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