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The Solution Down the Hall: How Introductory Courses in American Government Can Engage Students
Unformatted Document Text:  appropriate course objective? If we agree that the AG course has the potential to engage youth in politics, what sorts of adjustments are necessary? That is, if traditional teaching methods fail to inspire informed and active citizenship, are there ways to change our approach to better achieve these objectives? What, exactly, is going on in the typical AG course classroom? Are AG instructors open to innovation and do their institutions provide the resources necessary to make pedagogical adjustments? Surprisingly little is known about the AG course, even though it is a foundational offering in most political science departments. This paper represents an initial attempt to shed light on the perceptions of AG instructors and to broaden the conversation about the use of this class as a means to combat “the coming crisis of citizenship.” The Study In the spring of 2007, the Center for Political Participation surveyed 2,000 randomly selected instructors of American Government through the U.S. mail. Some 343 returned a completed questionnaire. It is a nationally representative sample and it boasts instructors at community colleges, four-year schools and research universities. Roughly 30 percent of respondents were lecturers, adjuncts, or instructors; 23 percent were assistant professors; 15 percent associate professors; and 25 percent full professors. About 50 percent of the sample has been teaching AG classes less than 10 years. A majority (68%) of the respondents teach the course twice a year, with a median class size of 35 students. Seventeen percent of respondents are in states where the AG course is required of all college graduates and 14 percent teaching at institutions that require students to take the AG course in to graduate (Table 1). Table 1 about here

Authors: Shea, Daniel.
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appropriate course objective? If we agree that the AG course has the potential to engage youth
in politics, what sorts of adjustments are necessary? That is, if traditional teaching methods fail
to inspire informed and active citizenship, are there ways to change our approach to better
achieve these objectives? What, exactly, is going on in the typical AG course classroom? Are
AG instructors open to innovation and do their institutions provide the resources necessary to
make pedagogical adjustments? Surprisingly little is known about the AG course, even though it
is a foundational offering in most political science departments. This paper represents an initial
attempt to shed light on the perceptions of AG instructors and to broaden the conversation about
the use of this class as a means to combat “the coming crisis of citizenship.”
The Study
In the spring of 2007, the Center for Political Participation surveyed 2,000 randomly
selected instructors of American Government through the U.S. mail. Some 343 returned a
completed questionnaire. It is a nationally representative sample and it boasts instructors at
community colleges, four-year schools and research universities. Roughly 30 percent of
respondents were lecturers, adjuncts, or instructors; 23 percent were assistant professors; 15
percent associate professors; and 25 percent full professors. About 50 percent of the sample has
been teaching AG classes less than 10 years. A majority (68%) of the respondents teach the
course twice a year, with a median class size of 35 students. Seventeen percent of respondents
are in states where the AG course is required of all college graduates and 14 percent teaching at
institutions that require students to take the AG course in to graduate (Table 1).
Table 1 about here


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