2016 – Abstracts

Flipped Presenations

Session A: Games and Simulations in an active learning environment

This study is inspired by the expanding research that probes into the effectiveness of simulations within political sciences and the need for methodologically and empirically underpinned research in this area. In this study, we first test previously in educational contexts validated scales in a simulation-context. Second, we explore students’ differences with respect to how they perceive the learning environment and with respect to motivation, personal and situational interest, and self-efficacy, all known to be important predictors of academic achievement. The research was conducted in a cross-continent EU-simulation, involving 139 students’ questionnaires. First, we constructed a valid questionnaire, checking internal consistency and dimensionality. Next, students’ differences were explored using independent t-tests. Variation in effects was found depending on gender, nationality of the university, number of years in higher education, class preparation, and number of years attending.

I am used to play games with my Bachelor students to illustrate International Relations’ theories. These games were played for three academic years for two different International Relations’ classes followed by second years’ bachelor students. I entitled these games “survival game”, “prisoners’ dilemma”, “leaving in a world of inequalities”, “who has power” and “the perception game”. This paper explains the games and their value to teach International Relations’ theory.
Session B: Teaching political science & European Studies: how to teach and keep it relevant?

This paper investigates the social dimension of the teaching of political science from both societal and pedagogic perspectives. The move towards governance has combined with technology and changed social patterns to alter how ‘politics is done’ during the 21st century. Similarly, public management reform and the impact of recession have changed public administration. Such changes have implications for us as political scientists, not only because of the changed context in which we work but also because of the changed cognitive, cultural and curricular dimensions of our profession. The paper focuses on three comparative elements of the social impact of political science, namely: the professionalisation of political science; the social impact of the ‘knowledge’ produced by political scientists (disseminated through research, service, public commentary and advisory/consultancy roles)and most significantly, the impact on curricular content and pedagogy.

Although there is a significant body of literature on the development of political science as a discipline, much of this work is focuses on the development of fields of research, institutional developments in universities, and disciplinary associations (for example Blondel 1981; Ricci 1984; Haywood et al 1999; Addock et al 2007; Rhodes 2009). By contrast less has been written on the development of politics as a taught discipline within higher education. This is perhaps surprising, as from the earliest years of the discipline, there has been debate and discussion relating to curriculum and teaching methods (Haines 1916; Dewey 1933), which have been revisited episodically over the decades (Wilcox 1941; Connery 1965; Van Dyke 1977) . Indeed in recent years a growing number of studies have further explored current teaching methods used in the discipline. More than a thousand peer-reviewed journals articles have been published on this since 2000, as well as a number of edited collections such as Gormley-Heenan and Lightfoot (2012) and Ishiyama et al (2015). Yet despite this, the study of political science as a taught discipline remains underdeveloped in terms of both empirical knowledge and conceptualisations of its scope, methods and purpose.
This paper will begin by summarising what is known about the development of political science as a taught discipline, briefly placing this within wider scholarship on the development of the field. It will then turn to outline the key debates that have emerged implicitly and explicitly within the field. These relate to issues of what is taught, how it is taught and the purpose for which it is taught. It will argue that many of these debates are long-running or re-occurring and revolve around fundamental questions relating to the identity of the discipline, the purpose of higher education, and the social and political context within which university education exists.

Session C: Attitudes and perspectives on active learning. And the challenges ahead.

Since academic year 2011-12, the teaching team for International Politics – a second year undergraduate module taught to Social Science students at University of the West of Scotland – have been implementing and refining an innovative undergraduate peer review formative assessment (for draft essay introductions and bibliographies supported by a bespoke rubric within Turnitin Peermark). This initiative is based on research-driven pedagogy and sector-wide best practice deriving from insights into learner transitions, critical reflection and academic writing skills. The module’s teaching team are currently writing up an academic article integrating their professional reflections on this innovation with student voice data, including from learner focus groups. This flipped presentation represents an opportunity to share our ideas and techniques with professional peers, in order to receive feedback in pursuit of a more holistic perspective on the pros and cons of undergraduate peer review

This paper addresses the importance of course attendance on study success. It addresses this issue by analysing the importance of (non-) attendance on the study success of first-year students of Maastricht University’s Bachelor in European Studies (BA ES). It specifically looks at five first-year cohorts (nearly 1,750 students in total). Study success in this context takes two forms. First and foremost, study success concerns retention. Consequently, the first question addressed in this paper asks whether we can discern differences in course attendance between students who achieved the 42 ECTS (or more) required to continue their studies and those who did not. Second, study success can be defined in terms of grades. Therefore, for those students who achieved at least 42 ECTS, does course attendance effect their Grade Point Average (GPA) at the end of the first year? We will address this issue by comparing end of the year results, but also by looking at course level.

Hands-on Sessions

Session A

Based on 25 years of working with Active Learning pedagogy, my contribution raises questions about four techniques and strategies:

  1. Student Response Systems (SRS) in large lectures – experiences and feedback on the use of Shakespeak SRS for a new course in International Public Administration;
  2. Media Seminars – thoughts and feedback on the use of media such as videos, documentaries and cinema in existing courses; as well as the design and creation of a new course in Popular Political Culture;
  3. Jigsaw Cooperative Learning – experiences and feedback on the use of the Jigsaw Technique for encouraging active learning through cooperative strategies in seminars. Reflections based on using the technique in seminars on EU as Global Actor;
  4. Theme Studies – reflections and design thoughts on the use of Theme Studies to allow for transdisciplinary learning and immersive AL experiences. Reflections based on the introduction and use of the pedagogic strategy for year-groups.
Session B

Field trips and site visits can be an effective way to enhance students’ learning in politics, IR and European studies though they are not perhaps as deeply embedded in our programmes of study as in cognate disciplines (for example field trips in geography or site visits in history). The benefits can be varied: they are supported by active and experiential learning pedagogies; there a numerous possible locations for visits including political institutions at local, regional, national and international levels; they are often very popular with students. However they can also be beset by practical challenges: they are time-consuming and logistically complex learning activities for individual teachers to run; questions concern how they are incorporated into the curriculum; there are inclusion challenges such as keeping extraneous costs down and making ‘reasonable adjustments’; and ensuring learning potential is actually realized can be difficult.

Session C

The expertise, skills and attitudes a student acquires through a European Studies/political science programme are not always reflected in a simple transcript of grades. The resulting challenge for students to signal their capabilities and employers to select the appropriate candidates call for more refined tools of evaluation. Taking the perspective of higher (social science) education as the development of students’ portfolio’s may be one way to overcome such information asymmetry. Through the workshop, I would like to learn of the various practices participants have implemented. These concern both activities outside of the class context (such as internships, student assistantships, writing for student journals, participation in simulations, thesis prizes) but also within a class context (simulations, honors programmes, creative writing assignments).

Assessment of students is a key element of teaching and learning. Most often, assessment in Politics, International Relations and European Studies and related disciplines takes the form of short essays or written tests. But how could assessment look different? What about examining students’ understanding of the course content in a different way?
I would like to know more about the experiences with different forms of assessment. I am thinking about formats like writing different types of texts, from newspaper articles to wikipedia entries, which are still relatively close to ‘traditional’ written assessment format. I would also be interested in more unusual formats, such as participation in role plays or negotiation simulations, case studies and other types of (applied) project work, or more visual or audio formats like a video. There are certainly more examples – I would be delighted to hear about them and especially learn about others’ experiences of using such methods.

Session D

Liberal arts (LA) education is having a strong resurgence in Europe. Only in the Netherlands, four new liberal arts Colleges have opened their doors in the past 10 years, while several liberal arts programs have been created within existing university departments. This LA revival is highly welcome, however, it also creates challenges for both educators and students, especially in an academic environment, which until recently was defined by strict disciplinary boundaries. How do we teach narrowly defined concepts to an interdisciplinary group of students, preparing them for a highly complex and interconnected world? This discussion could be useful not only for LA colleges teachers, but for all IR lecturers, given the interdisciplinary nature of the field.

This workshop will look at the problems and benefits of collaborating with international partners in the delivery of course and programme content. Given the nature of comparative politics, European Studies and International Relations in addition to the wide availability of appropriate information technology, international collaborative teaching might be a natural development for programmes in these areas in the future. The workshop would explore how we might exploit such opportunities: what are the pedagogical challenges in working together in transnational teaching teams? How can we use differences in pedagogical cultures to our advantage? What are the problems that learning internationally poses for students? Delivery would involve a short presentation and then an interactive exercise in course design.


Workshop 1

Virtual mobility is an “internationalization at home” initiative that aims to strengthen intercultural competence in students who do not have the opportunity or desire to study abroad. Several examples will be presented to show how it can also become an instrument for developing other characteristics or constituent skills of global citizenship (e.g., social responsibility, glocal/global engagement, perspective taking, ambiguity management). Next, this workshop will invite participants to brainstorm on instructional design for virtual mobility as a tool to support global citizenship development.

Students getting feedback on their bachelor or master thesis join a class at my department. It is a challenge to make sure that students find everything taking place in class of relevance. I introduce different topics about method, theory and so to all students. They get feedback on written drafts in smaller groups of 3-7 students each. In order to make them get on with their thesis I introduce exercises. That could be tools used to make their research question more exact, or an exercise where they interview co-students in order to improve the quality of their interview questions. Approaching deadline they should write down their conclusion etc. They come up with a written draft, discuss the draft with peers and they leave class with another piece of text to be continued. In addition, they find the time spend in class of relevance for their thesis.

One of the challenges for students and lecturers alike, is making reading and/or in-class discussions more ‘meaningful’ and to engage students beyond the classroom setting in the topic/material. To this end, I’ve added a short reflection exercise using online post-it notes for specific topics in my Comparative Government module.
For our recent topic on ‘Choosing: voters, electoral systems and referendums’, following a group discussion and in-class exercise, I asked students to individually identify and write a question they would want to see in a referendum (identifying country to be held in). This reflective exercise was to be completed after the class session but before the next one, so that as a class, we are able to use it to reflect and re-cap on the last session’s topic (identifying key points and any follow-up questions) before linking it to the current session’s one.

The presentation will build on a study conducted in an introduction to international politics course. Students were invited to a Facebook group and encouraged to contribute material they felt was relevant to the course material. Upon completion of the course, three focus group interviews were conducted to discover how students perceived the impact of using Facebook on their learning and engagement. The findings indicate that the students find that social media contributes to their sense of belonging, familiarity with the teacher, and strengthens their identity as students of international politics. While the students did not observe overt improvement to their learning, they suggested that they were more likely to engage with material posted on social media than additional or recommended readings posted in the syllabus.

Workshop 2

Reading books used to be a fundamental students activity when studying social science or humanities. It has changed and nowadays it is very difficult to encourage students to read long texts. Due to the fact, that I find reading books still relevant for the university education, I try to include reading assignments to all the courses. What I do is based on two principles: “you read what you want to” and “reading books is not-obligatory but profitable”. In practice, it means that:

  1. students can individually choose books they want to read, as long as they are logically linked with the topic of the course
  2. grading procedure is arrange in a way to make it possible for the students to pass without reading books but taking reading assignments make it much easier.

I have implemented my teaching method for four years now. Results are quite encouraging because in every group majority of students takes reading assignments.

Students often struggle when first faced with theories. This is particularly the case with students in multi-disciplinary programmes with only a few social science modules, as is our experience in the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA. We have developed a teaching innovation to introduce students to competing theories – in a way more approachable than a traditional lecture. In a “theoretical theatre” we draw on the performing arts (and comedy!) to bring theories to life. The different theories are pitted against each other in a lively debate, to convince the audience that they can best explain a case study or general academic debate. We have developed it in four modules since 2012, to teach a variety of theories through performances inspired by staged academic debates, News Quiz or even reality-TV shows (videos are available on http://comedyintheclassroom.org/). It has received very positive student feedback and has helped students better apply theories in their own work.

Five challenges encountered in programme/course development are addressed through the use of policy briefs/reviews as a unit of assessment:

a) the desirability of embedding employability-focused solutions;
b) a concern to ensure a variety of skills are developed across the life of a programme;
c) providing an opportunity for students to apply theoretical knowledge to an identified topical issue;
d) ensuring students develop deep knowledge and understanding of empirical evidence;
e) getting students to engage with academic staff properly throughout the assessment process in the hope of getting them to engage appropriately with feedback in the future.

As a result, students did develop a wider range of skills; relevance of the assessment to their programme – and life after graduation – was clear. Despite experiencing anxiety, most also appreciated the chance to do something “different” and particularly to work more empirically. A dialogue around assessment was successfully created.

The use of simulations in HE teaching environments is widespread and the tool’s benefits to undergraduate and postgraduate student audiences are multiple. This TYPES simulation activity is a bit different. Here it is being used to bring first year A-Level Government and Politics students into a University environment to take part in a simulation facilitated by a mixed group of PhD, taught Masters and final year undergraduate students. The rationale behind this initiative and the anticipated results of it are manifold;

a) to provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning at four distinct educational levels,
b) to widen the participation of local college students who had not considered going on to University generally or applying to the University of Portsmouth (UoP) in particular,
c) to enhance UoP’s outreach in the local community as a basis for future joint educational ventures and
d) to enhance University students’ professional and employability skills.

Workshop 3

Based on 25 years of working with Active Learning pedagogy, my contribution raises questions about four techniques and strategies I use in my teaching interventions:

  1. Student Response Systems (SRS) in large lectures – experiences and feedback on the use of Shakespeak SRS for a new course in International Public Administration;
  2. Media Seminars – thoughts and feedback on the use of media such as videos, documentaries and cinema in existing courses; as well as the design and creation of a new course in Popular Political Culture;
  3. Jigsaw Cooperative Learning – experiences and feedback on the use of the Jigsaw Technique for encouraging ALthrough cooperative strategies in seminars. Reflections based on using the technique in seminars on EU as Global Actor;
  4. Theme Studies – reflections and design thoughts on the use of Theme Studies to allow for transdisciplinary learning and immersive AL experiences. Reflections based on the introduction and use of the pedagogic strategy.

The motif behind experimenting with webquests is to get undergraduate, non-major political science students, to actively engage with European politics. Information and news about the latter are the most easiest accessible online, and this is where webquests lead the students. Webquest allow to discover online content and bear the chance of sparking interest beyond the mere task of completing certain assignments. The idea is to share the latest class room experience concerning this method and to exchange ideas, views and perspectives with regards to this approach and beyond.

One of the challenges for lecturers is ensuring all students in the class (no matter the size) are actively engaged. To this end, I’ve been experimenting with using in-class polling as a ‘jump-off’ point for discussion/debate/reflection. I have previously used another system for in-class polling, but requires purchase of software/hardware. So I am now experimenting with Poll Everywhere (freeware) that can be used with mobile technology (smartphones/tablets/laptops) in the classroom. For our topic on ‘Communicating: political culture, political communication and media’, I designed an in-class poll as a precursor to our lecture/seminar. The exercise serves to: engage students from the start; get a baseline of their understanding; encourage discussion; and allow students to reflect on their own learning and any changes to their opinions by the end of the session.