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The Solution Down the Hall: How Introductory Courses in American Government Can Engage Students
Unformatted Document Text:  The notion that quality instruction is an essential part of using the classroom to engage students was a key finding in “The Civic Mission of our Schools,” an important report issued by the Carnegie Corporation of New York a few years ago (2003). More recently, Cliff Zukin and his colleagues, in a book entitled, A New Engagement?: Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen (2006), point to survey data to suggest particular pedagogies are more likely leads college students to become politically engaged. In particular, they point to the importance of connecting course work to the relevance of the students’ daily lives (152-3). One might argue, then, that quality teaching and innovation is essential to achieving the goals of using the AG class to engage students, and our survey results seem to buttress this assertion. Some 34 percent noted that they were “very interested” in teaching innovations, 50 percent “somewhat interested,” and 15 percent said they were “not at all interested” in new ways to teach the AG course. As we might expect, those most interested in innovation were also the most likely to see the AG course as a means of engaging students. A full 93 percent of those interested in finding new ways to teach the course also believed the course should be used to draw students into the process. Conversely, just 81 percent of those uninterested in innovations would use the course to engage students. A similar question asked the respondent to note specific innovations that he/she has tried. Just under 63 percent noted at least one teaching adjustment -- and nearly every one of these respondents (97 percent) also suggested the AG course should be used to engage students. An important difference emerges with respect to rank and willingness to innovate. Forty- seven percent of instructors and 41 percent of assistant processors are “very interested” in innovations, while just 19 percent of professors and 31 percent of associates feel the same way. Similarly, some 44 percent of those at two year institutions are “very interested” in innovations,

Authors: Shea, Daniel.
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The notion that quality instruction is an essential part of using the classroom to engage
students was a key finding in “The Civic Mission of our Schools,” an important report issued by
the Carnegie Corporation of New York a few years ago (2003). More recently, Cliff Zukin and
his colleagues, in a book entitled, A New Engagement?: Political Participation, Civic Life, and
the Changing American Citizen (2006), point to survey data to suggest particular pedagogies are
more likely leads college students to become politically engaged. In particular, they point to the
importance of connecting course work to the relevance of the students’ daily lives (152-3).
One might argue, then, that quality teaching and innovation is essential to achieving the
goals of using the AG class to engage students, and our survey results seem to buttress this
assertion. Some 34 percent noted that they were “very interested” in teaching innovations, 50
percent “somewhat interested,” and 15 percent said they were “not at all interested” in new ways
to teach the AG course. As we might expect, those most interested in innovation were also the
most likely to see the AG course as a means of engaging students. A full 93 percent of those
interested in finding new ways to teach the course also believed the course should be used to
draw students into the process. Conversely, just 81 percent of those uninterested in innovations
would use the course to engage students. A similar question asked the respondent to note
specific innovations that he/she has tried. Just under 63 percent noted at least one teaching
adjustment -- and nearly every one of these respondents (97 percent) also suggested the AG
course should be used to engage students.
An important difference emerges with respect to rank and willingness to innovate. Forty-
seven percent of instructors and 41 percent of assistant processors are “very interested” in
innovations, while just 19 percent of professors and 31 percent of associates feel the same way.
Similarly, some 44 percent of those at two year institutions are “very interested” in innovations,


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