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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  Political Participation Exercises The second and third research questions we ask have to do with the goals of participation exercises and the best way to use them. First, do political participation exercises help to make concepts more relevant for students? Second, what are the best pedagogical tools to teach civic engagement while at the same time helping the students better understand political science? We turn now to the first question. It has been established that political participation exercises, service learning, and civic involvement do improve student learning and make concepts more relevant for the students. Before we proceed with a discussion of this previous research on learning improvement, it should be noted that the term “service-learning” has become a catch-all phrase to incorporate a variety of hands-on participation exercises. Service-learning is a “combination of in-school and out-of-school work designed to enhance democratic education and assist the community” (Hepburn, 1997, p. 136). Hepburn notes that it falls under many monikers: citizenship education, political science education, political education, or civic education, to name but a few. For purposes of this paper, we recognize that our political participation exercises were not service-learning exercises in the truest sense of the phrase because we asked our students to participate in traditional political activities such as attending political meetings, writing letters, voting, and attending protests. In addition, our students were not required to participate for an extended period of time throughout the course; instead, they were asked to do specific activities. We still borrow from the literature on service learning, however, because it often incorporates assignments that are similar to ours in the sense that they are out of the classroom and community-involved. 4

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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Political Participation Exercises
The second and third research questions we ask have to do with the goals of participation
exercises and the best way to use them. First, do political participation exercises help to make
concepts more relevant for students? Second, what are the best pedagogical tools to teach civic
engagement while at the same time helping the students better understand political science?
We turn now to the first question.
It has been established that political participation exercises, service learning, and civic
involvement do improve student learning and make concepts more relevant for the students.
Before we proceed with a discussion of this previous research on learning improvement, it
should be noted that the term “service-learning” has become a catch-all phrase to incorporate a
variety of hands-on participation exercises. Service-learning is a “combination of in-school and
out-of-school work designed to enhance democratic education and assist the
community” (Hepburn, 1997, p. 136). Hepburn notes that it falls under many monikers:
citizenship education, political science education, political education, or civic education, to name
but a few. For purposes of this paper, we recognize that our political participation exercises were
not service-learning exercises in the truest sense of the phrase because we asked our students to
participate in traditional political activities such as attending political meetings, writing letters,
voting, and attending protests. In addition, our students were not required to participate for an
extended period of time throughout the course; instead, they were asked to do specific activities.
We still borrow from the literature on service learning, however, because it often incorporates
assignments that are similar to ours in the sense that they are out of the classroom and
community-involved.
4


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