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Political Participation Exercises as a Means to Teach Civic Skills, Engage Students and Recruit Majors
Unformatted Document Text:  In their 1993 article, Markus, Howard and King report the results of their service-learning integration experiment. Following on the heels of an insurgence of community involvement being written into course curriculum, the researchers sought to determine if the effects of service learning and participation went beyond just good qualitative comments from a few instructors. Indeed, they find that students who took part in service learning during an undergraduate political science course, as compared to a control group, increased their ratings of the personal importance attached to helping others, were more likely than the control group to say that participation had led to a sense of social and civic duty, were more likely to agree that they had performed up to their potential in the course, and were more likely to “report that they learned to apply principles from this course to new situations” (Markus, Howard, and King, 1993, p. 414). In addition, attendance rates were higher for the service learning participants. And finally, grades were higher for the participators as compared to the control group. Research such as this suggests that political participation exercises can make concepts more relevant for students and also teach some civic engagement skills. The next question to which we turn has to do with the most effective ways in which to teach political participation and civic engagement. Previous studies indicate that simply engaging in a political science curriculum will lead to higher levels of political knowledge and further the development of basic civic skills (Nie and Hillygus, 2001). However, within those political science courses, it has also been observed that activities with a specific emphasis on participation will more deeply engage the students and allow them to acquire even more political knowledge and civic skills (Niemi and Junn, 1998). Thus, hands-on political participation exercises have seen an increase in popularity, and in recent years, service learning activities have become the “go-to” for college instructors 5

Authors: Lupo, Lindsey. and Griffin, Rebecca Brandy.
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In their 1993 article, Markus, Howard and King report the results of their service-learning
integration experiment. Following on the heels of an insurgence of community involvement
being written into course curriculum, the researchers sought to determine if the effects of service
learning and participation went beyond just good qualitative comments from a few instructors.
Indeed, they find that students who took part in service learning during an undergraduate
political science course, as compared to a control group, increased their ratings of the personal
importance attached to helping others, were more likely than the control group to say that
participation had led to a sense of social and civic duty, were more likely to agree that they had
performed up to their potential in the course, and were more likely to “report that they learned to
apply principles from this course to new situations” (Markus, Howard, and King, 1993, p. 414).
In addition, attendance rates were higher for the service learning participants. And finally,
grades were higher for the participators as compared to the control group. Research such as this
suggests that political participation exercises can make concepts more relevant for students and
also teach some civic engagement skills.
The next question to which we turn has to do with the most effective ways in which to
teach political participation and civic engagement. Previous studies indicate that simply
engaging in a political science curriculum will lead to higher levels of political knowledge and
further the development of basic civic skills (Nie and Hillygus, 2001). However, within those
political science courses, it has also been observed that activities with a specific emphasis on
participation will more deeply engage the students and allow them to acquire even more political
knowledge and civic skills (Niemi and Junn, 1998).
Thus, hands-on political participation exercises have seen an increase in popularity, and
in recent years, service learning activities have become the “go-to” for college instructors
5


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