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Engaging the Unengaged: Using Visual Images to Enhance the 'Poli Sci 101' Experience of Non-majors
Unformatted Document Text:  RESEARCH DESIGN AND MEASURES Students enrolled in an introductory American government course at Missouri State University in the Spring 2007 semester serve as the subjects in this study. Missouri State University is typical of many state universities in the nation. It is a large public university located in the Springfield metropolitan area, and draws students mostly from the southwest Missouri/northeast Arkansas region. Students generally come from modest financial backgrounds and many represent the first in their family to attend college. The course utilized in this study, “PLS101: American Democracy and Citizenship,” serves as a general education degree requirement for all students at the university. The course covers topics typical to such classes – foundations of American Government (American founding, Constitution, federalism); institutions of government (legislative, executive, judicial); citizen-government linkages (parties, interest groups, media, campaigns, voting, and elections); and policy (economic and foreign). Two different sections of 65 students in the same PLS101 course were involved in this project . One section, chosen randomly, served as the treatment group and the other served as the control group. 1 The two groups received identical oral lectures, but different accompanying in-class PowerPoint slides. The treatment group viewed slides containing an outline of lecture material and colorful, iconic, and sometimes comical visual images. The control group viewed slides that contained the same outline of lecture notes, but did not contain the enhanced visual images. 2 (See Appendix A for sample slides.) The type of slide presentation (control or treatment) serves as the key independent variable in the analyses that follow. Student engagement serves as the dependent variable of interest, and was measured using two surveys of students in these classes. Students were asked to voluntarily and anonymously complete two 1 Group assignment was decided by the flip of a coin. The section meeting from 9:00-9:50 AM served as the control group, while meeting from 10:00-10:50 AM served as the treatment (i.e., experimental) group. 2 The slides viewed by both groups also contained a number of substantively relevant illustrations; for instance, a line chart showing voter turnout over time or a bar chart indicating rates of African-American voter registration before and after implementation of the Voting Rights Act. Since these visual elements were substantively important to the lecture material, they were retained for the control group as well as the treatment group. 7

Authors: Ulbig, Stacy.
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RESEARCH DESIGN AND MEASURES
Students enrolled in an introductory American government course at Missouri State University in
the Spring 2007 semester serve as the subjects in this study. Missouri State University is typical of many
state universities in the nation. It is a large public university located in the Springfield metropolitan area,
and draws students mostly from the southwest Missouri/northeast Arkansas region. Students generally
come from modest financial backgrounds and many represent the first in their family to attend college.
The course utilized in this study, “PLS101: American Democracy and Citizenship,” serves as a general
education degree requirement for all students at the university. The course covers topics typical to such
classes – foundations of American Government (American founding, Constitution, federalism);
institutions of government (legislative, executive, judicial); citizen-government linkages (parties, interest
groups, media, campaigns, voting, and elections); and policy (economic and foreign).
Two different sections of 65 students in the same PLS101 course were involved in this project .
One section, chosen randomly, served as the treatment group and the other served as the control group.
1
The two groups received identical oral lectures, but different accompanying in-class PowerPoint slides.
The treatment group viewed slides containing an outline of lecture material and colorful, iconic, and
sometimes comical visual images. The control group viewed slides that contained the same outline of
lecture notes, but did not contain the enhanced visual images.
(See Appendix A for sample slides.) The
type of slide presentation (control or treatment) serves as the key independent variable in the analyses that
follow.
Student engagement serves as the dependent variable of interest, and was measured using two
surveys of students in these classes. Students were asked to voluntarily and anonymously complete two
1
Group assignment was decided by the flip of a coin. The section meeting from 9:00-9:50 AM served as the control
group, while meeting from 10:00-10:50 AM served as the treatment (i.e., experimental) group.
2
The slides viewed by both groups also contained a number of substantively relevant illustrations; for instance, a
line chart showing voter turnout over time or a bar chart indicating rates of African-American voter registration
before and after implementation of the Voting Rights Act. Since these visual elements were substantively important
to the lecture material, they were retained for the control group as well as the treatment group.
7


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