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A Value Added Model of Service Learning in Political Science Courses
Unformatted Document Text:  specific to the training of political science students that makes them particularly skilled in these types of endeavors. Our students may very well gain valuable insight from standard service settings and the experiences can most certainly be tied directly to course material (e.g. public policy, social justice). However, the types of service provided can in essence be given by a college student from any major or discipline. There is nothing particular about the types of skills that we impart in our students that are employed in most service settings. This situation seems to represent an underutilization of a valuable resource. After all, many of our classes are designed to enhance knowledge and skills in our students that are is essence an asset that can be shared with the communities in which our institutions reside. Most importantly, these assets that our students possess are very much in need by the governments that operate in our local areas. This confluence of assets and needs provides an outstanding opportunity for service learning within the realm of political science to be reconsidered. But before we examine our model lets look more closely at the assets that our students have and the needs that local governments maintain. A cursory examination of political science department curriculums in the United States indicates the presence of courses that are designed to develop an array of research skills. From courses that develop fundamental research tools such as survey design and data analysis to classes that provide technical skills such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), political science students gain valuable assets through their coursework. Importantly, not only do political science students learn the research skills, they are also often equipped with the contextual background on policy issues that complements their research abilities. For example, a student in a public opinion class may develop skills on 15

Authors: Borick, Christopher. and Gambino, Giacomo.
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specific to the training of political science students that makes them particularly skilled in
these types of endeavors. Our students may very well gain valuable insight from
standard service settings and the experiences can most certainly be tied directly to course
material (e.g. public policy, social justice). However, the types of service provided can in
essence be given by a college student from any major or discipline. There is nothing
particular about the types of skills that we impart in our students that are employed in
most service settings. This situation seems to represent an underutilization of a valuable
resource. After all, many of our classes are designed to enhance knowledge and skills in
our students that are is essence an asset that can be shared with the communities in which
our institutions reside. Most importantly, these assets that our students possess are very
much in need by the governments that operate in our local areas. This confluence of
assets and needs provides an outstanding opportunity for service learning within the
realm of political science to be reconsidered. But before we examine our model lets look
more closely at the assets that our students have and the needs that local governments
maintain.
A cursory examination of political science department curriculums in the United
States indicates the presence of courses that are designed to develop an array of research
skills. From courses that develop fundamental research tools such as survey design and
data analysis to classes that provide technical skills such as Geographic Information
Systems (GIS), political science students gain valuable assets through their coursework.
Importantly, not only do political science students learn the research skills, they are also
often equipped with the contextual background on policy issues that complements their
research abilities. For example, a student in a public opinion class may develop skills on
15


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