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The Solution Down the Hall: How Introductory Courses in American Government Can Engage Students
Unformatted Document Text:  instructs an American Government course knows the challenges: large classes, a wide range of student abilities, numerous important topics to cover, and cynical and unprepared students. Recall that our survey found the greatest challenge noted by instructors was a lack of student interest, which leaves us difficult catch-22. True innovation will not be easy. Thankfully, interest in finding ways of breaking the cycle of indifference has grown in recent years, as evidenced by the burgeoning APSA Teaching and Learning Conference. How exciting to watch the event grow from a small gathering of “true believers,” to an oft-discussed and widely-attended gathering. The section in PS: Political Science and Politics dedicated to “The Teacher” has also grown. And of no little consequence, college book publisher have turned their attention to pedagogical innovations in order to meet market demands – surely a sign of change. In order for innovation to actually make a difference, a paradigmatic shift is essential. Rather than seeing instruction as a means of spreading information and wisdom from the instructor to the student, students must be engaged in their own learning. It must be a process of personal discovery, where knowledge is constructed, discovered, transformed and extended by the student. Instructor efforts should be aimed at developing student talents and competencies. Good instruction involves a transaction between student and instructor. Also, while expertise is essential, teacher training is necessary. The solution is waiting for us in the classroom down the hall. The American Government course can and should teach the next generations how to be the keepers of their own government.

Authors: Shea, Daniel.
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instructs an American Government course knows the challenges: large classes, a wide range of
student abilities, numerous important topics to cover, and cynical and unprepared students.
Recall that our survey found the greatest challenge noted by instructors was a lack of student
interest, which leaves us difficult catch-22. True innovation will not be easy.
Thankfully, interest in finding ways of breaking the cycle of indifference has grown in
recent years, as evidenced by the burgeoning APSA Teaching and Learning Conference. How
exciting to watch the event grow from a small gathering of “true believers,” to an oft-discussed
and widely-attended gathering. The section in PS: Political Science and Politics dedicated to
“The Teacher” has also grown. And of no little consequence, college book publisher have turned
their attention to pedagogical innovations in order to meet market demands – surely a sign of
change.
In order for innovation to actually make a difference, a paradigmatic shift is essential.
Rather than seeing instruction as a means of spreading information and wisdom from the
instructor to the student, students must be engaged in their own learning. It must be a process of
personal discovery, where knowledge is constructed, discovered, transformed and extended by
the student. Instructor efforts should be aimed at developing student talents and competencies.
Good instruction involves a transaction between student and instructor. Also, while expertise is
essential, teacher training is necessary. The solution is waiting for us in the classroom down the
hall. The American Government course can and should teach the next generations how to be the
keepers of their own government.


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