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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  We conclude that the majors seemed to have been more engaged than the non-majors in political science. Meanwhile, the assignment successfully engaged both majors and non-majors in politics. By this we mean that both the majors and non-majors indicated that they might become better citizens as a result of the study. Both majors and non-majors alike indicated that the assignment taught them how to participate in politics and increased their confidence in their ability to do so. On the other hand, non-majors were less likely to feel as if they were introduced to a network of political activists. Majors were more likely to feel a sense of network, but still at only about 50%. This suggests that the simple participation assignment can teach basic civic skills but falls short of connecting the students to a network. As we know, networks are fundamental to on- going political activism because they help to mobilize participants (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, 1995). One shortcoming of basic assignments like ours might be that they do not focus enough on group activities. Recall that the majority of our students participated in activities that could be done from the safety of their own home (as in writing a letter or watching a political meeting on television.) Since networks are so fundamental to the development of a healthy civic life, we might consider how we can design future participation assignments that emphasize group activities. Such assignments might be more engaging to a wider range of students, taking us back to our concern regarding how we might engage non-majors and, thereby, recruit them into the field of political science. 21

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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We conclude that the majors seemed to have been more engaged than the non-majors in political
science.
Meanwhile, the assignment successfully engaged both majors and non-majors in politics.
By this we mean that both the majors and non-majors indicated that they might become better
citizens as a result of the study. Both majors and non-majors alike indicated that the assignment
taught them how to participate in politics and increased their confidence in their ability to do so.
On the other hand, non-majors were less likely to feel as if they were introduced to a network of
political activists. Majors were more likely to feel a sense of network, but still at only about
50%. This suggests that the simple participation assignment can teach basic civic skills but falls
short of connecting the students to a network. As we know, networks are fundamental to on-
going political activism because they help to mobilize participants (Verba, Schlozman, and
Brady, 1995). One shortcoming of basic assignments like ours might be that they do not focus
enough on group activities. Recall that the majority of our students participated in activities that
could be done from the safety of their own home (as in writing a letter or watching a political
meeting on television.) Since networks are so fundamental to the development of a healthy civic
life, we might consider how we can design future participation assignments that emphasize group
activities. Such assignments might be more engaging to a wider range of students, taking us
back to our concern regarding how we might engage non-majors and, thereby, recruit them into
the field of political science.
21


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