Are They Living What They Learn?: Assessing Knowledge and Attitude Change in Introductory Politics Courses

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Bath]On: 09 October 2014, At: 06:37Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of Political Science EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Are They Living What They Learn?:Assessing Knowledge and AttitudeChange in Introductory Politics CoursesPamela Martin a , Holley Tankersley a &amp; Min Ye aa Coastal Carolina UniversityPublished online: 25 Apr 2012.</p><p>To cite this article: Pamela Martin , Holley Tankersley &amp; Min Ye (2012) Are They Living What TheyLearn?: Assessing Knowledge and Attitude Change in Introductory Politics Courses, Journal of PoliticalScience Education, 8:2, 201-223, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2012.667686</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Are They Living What They Learn?:Assessing Knowledge and Attitude Change</p><p>in Introductory Politics Courses</p><p>PAMELA MARTINHOLLEY TANKERSLEYMIN YE</p><p>Coastal Carolina University</p><p>Many assessment studies are devoted to discovering whether student knowledgeincreases after successful completion of a specific course; fewer studies attempt toexamine whether students undergo a change in their values and attitudes as a resultof that coursework. Given the continuing emphasis on assessment and the fulfillmentof core curriculum goals at universities across the country, we designed a two-phasestudy of student learning outcomes in both core curriculum and major requirementcourses. In addition to measuring changes in student knowledge, we also examinestudent attitude changes as a result of taking Introduction to World Politics orAmerican National Government. We theorize that teaching such courses may impactstudent attitudes in such a way as to increase both knowledge and the likelihood ofpolitical participation. As such, our study provides insights into whether our studentsare meeting established student learning outcomes, but it also has implications forpublic policy and politics. Using data from a multiple-semester study, we find thatintroductory-level courses in both American and world politics not only lead toincreases in student knowledge about and interest in politics but also affect slightbut significant changes in political attitudes.</p><p>Keywords assessment, attitude change, student knowledge</p><p>Much of the literature in international relations and American government (twoprominent subfields of political science) assesses the impact of institutions, norms,and ideas on voters and global citizens. However, one flaw in our own studies isthe lack of knowledge of the impact of our classes and research on our students,not just in terms of student learning outcomes (SLOs) but also in terms of their polit-ical attitudes and their disposition to become civically engaged in their communitiesat the local, national, or global level. Constructivist scholars (Giddens 1991; Steele2007; Wendt 1999) have defined this problem as the subject-object double herme-neutic, meaning the study of politics can also affect its practice. It stands to reason,then, that the teaching of politics (the subject) might also affect the students outsidethe classroom (the object). Our study examines the impacts of teaching and learningon knowledge capture as well as student attitude change in order to determine</p><p>Address correspondence to Holley Tankersley, Coastal Carolina University, 132Chanticleer Drive West, P.O. Box 261954, Conway, SC 29526. E-mail:</p><p>Journal of Political Science Education, 8:201223, 2012Copyright # 2012 Taylor &amp; Francis Group, LLCISSN: 1551-2169 print=1551-2177 onlineDOI: 10.1080/15512169.2012.667686</p><p>201</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f B</p><p>ath]</p><p> at 0</p><p>6:37</p><p> 09 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>whether these courses not only fulfill their intended outcomes (knowledge for learn-ing) but also whether they have deeper consequences in terms of political attitudesand opinions.</p><p>Trudy Banta (2007a), a leading scholar in the area of higher education assessment,has found that many assessment tools evaluate only finite information and terms thatprograms wish students to grasp. However, she notes that the true meaning of assess-ment is to create goals that students may fulfill upon graduation. These areas of studentcompetence should not only be assessed through the core curriculum but also embed-ded within individual, department-specific courses. In other words, both the generaleducation and the discipline-specific education programs form the whole student andmust be evaluated for their ability to prepare students for the postuniversity world.</p><p>Like other universities, our institution has developed a new mission statementand strategic plan with specific goals and student learning outcomes that range fromthe administrative areas to general education and, finally, to the department level.All administrative units developed student learning outcomes (SLOs) and annuallyevaluate their goals, SLOs, and evaluation results in order to close the loop andto reflect on how to improve our programs and fulfill the university strategic plangoals and expected outcomes. As Walvoord (2007) emphasizes, the assessment loopmust be closed not only at the departmental level but at all levels of the institution totruly have an effective assessment program. Thus, the politics department reviewedthe university plan, evaluated national norms for political science education and cre-ated an assessment plan that reflected both institutional and discipline-specific goalsand student learning outcomes.</p><p>Based on the results of this study and the Educational Testing Services PoliticalScience subject area test, which we distribute to all exiting senior politics majors, thedepartment did close the loop and modified our curriculum accordingly. The poli-tics department added an upper-level survey course in American politics and politicaltheory to refine student skills in these areas as the introductory-level courses typi-cally are taken in the freshman year. Additionally, we added courses in area studies,including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to respond to an overemphasis in ourcurriculum on Western Europe and the industrialized world.</p><p>The assessment tools in this study evaluate student learning on the level of thecore curriculum of the university, as POLI 101 Introduction to World Politicsand POLI 201 American Government are part of the general education program.In addition, these two courses are required courses in the politics major and functionas introductory surveys for more advanced-level learning. Therefore, the assessmenttool for these courses reflects both institutional general education SLOs anddiscipline-specific SLOs, as suggested by a recent study by Banta (2007b).</p><p>While many departments are concerned with the skills that graduates obtainupon completion of the degree in order to obtain employment in the area or continueon in graduate programs, the Department of Politics is also interested in the politicalattitude changes, if any, students would experience from these courses. The discon-nect between a focus on knowledge and attitudes is also reflected in scholarly litera-ture; much of the SLOs literature discusses student learning and teaching strategies,while the political science literature surveys voter attitudes and civic engagement;however, the two literatures do not often overlap. We maintain that an engagedpolitical attitude, in addition to political knowledge, is a critical component of a suc-cessful program. We therefore assess student attitude change via a pre- and posttestand survey in POLI 101 and POLI 201.</p><p>202 P. Martin et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f B</p><p>ath]</p><p> at 0</p><p>6:37</p><p> 09 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>Monroe and Martinez-Marti (2008) suggest that students do experience signifi-cant attitude changes in some areas after taking social science classes. Through quali-tative interviews and quantitative implicit association tests (IAT), these scholarsfound that student attitudes toward career women and Asians had a significantchange from the beginning to the end of the course. While our study does not employthe IAT as a method of assessing attitude change, we concur that quantitative analy-sis of attitude change, in addition to student dialog and the use of qualitative meth-ods, is an important addition to the methodological toolbox. This may beparticularly true in political science, as students are less likely to express their truepolitical attitudes through dialog with the professor either for reasons of uncon-scious attitudinal leanings or for reasons of trying to impress the authority figure(Monroe and Martinez-Marti 2008). Thus, quantitative attitude surveys promise arelatively reliable method of evaluation while also allowing researchers to controlfor demographic characteristics, course section, and other factors that could impactchanges in student knowledge and attitudes.</p><p>A survey by Kelly and Klunk (2003) found that 50% of U.S. political sciencedepartments are conducting some type of assessment program. While most programssurveyed by Ishiyama and Breuning (2008) noted an assessment of knowledge andtheories in the discipline, few assessed the concepts of citizenship and ethics, values,or attitudes. As Golich (1998) notes, clear and profound assessment requires timeand resources; Deardorff and Folger (2005) agree, explaining that most departmentsopt for easy assessment plans that require less time and resources. Their case studyand our experience emphasize the benefits, however, of utilizing assessment toimprove the department, to improve student learning, and to gain a better under-standing of the impacts of teaching politics on our students political attitudes. Inan effort to stimulate hypotheses on assessment outcomes other than the typicaldiscipline knowledge and theory, we propose to study the deeper questions of polit-ical attitude change as a consequence of these introductory classes. Such assessmentwill also shed light on the larger core goals of the curriculum and will provideinsights into students public policy and foreign policy preferences (see also Erikssonand Sundelius 2005).</p><p>Theory and Hypotheses</p><p>Our primary question of interest is as follows:</p><p>Do our selected courses, POLI 101 and 201, provide knowledge to stu-dents while also having a significant impact on their political attitudesboth domestically and globally?</p><p>Assessing Student Learning</p><p>In order to examine the first area of our research, student learning outcomes, theassessment literature argues that an administratively friendly environment and agrassroots approach are best (Angelo 1999; Banta et al. 1996; Maki 2004; Wolvaard2004). In the case of our department, we jointly discussed and created six SLOs foreach introductory course, including American National Government (POLI 201)and Introduction to World Politics (POLI 101). These courses are required for the</p><p>Living What They Learn? 203</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f B</p><p>ath]</p><p> at 0</p><p>6:37</p><p> 09 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>major and are both listed within the universitys core curriculum. Our departmentdiscussed the learning outcomes and created common pre- and posttest questionsfor each subfield to assess overall student learning. We use these survey questionsin a formative, rather than summative manner, meaning we issue the questions atboth the beginning and the end of each semester to better understand the SLOswithin the students careers in the major, rather than solely at the end (Wolvaard2004). Both formative and summative assessments have been advocated by assess-ment scholars (Wright 2005).</p><p>In addition, our university has a common mission statement and purpose of thecore curriculum. The second set of SLOs reflects these overarching campus-widegoals, which link the process of assessment to the greater institutional context(American Association for Higher Education [AAHE] 1992). Therefore, some ques-tions in the survey are aimed at gathering evidence of fulfilling these university-widegoals and SLOs. Such a combination of evaluating student learning in both themajor and the core curriculum provides professors and students alike the abilityto reflect on their teaching and learning in both contexts for the purposes of careerdevelopment and greater human breadth and scope (as suggested by most of theliterature on assessment of the core curriculum, including Leef 2003 and Latzer2004).</p><p>Therefore, our first research question is a simple and common one for assessment:</p><p>Does the intervention of POLI 101 and=or POLI 201 serve to increasestudent knowledge from the pre- to the posttest survey?</p><p>Assessing Student Attitudes</p><p>The second area of our research investigates changes in student attitudes towardspolitics, civic participation, and citizenship. This is a relatively new developmentin the literature on political science education. Indeed, there should be a natural con-nection between studies of attitudinal change and political science education,especially considering the fact that political science has long included the study ofsocial capital, or community resources generated by the shared values, attitudes,commitments and behaviors of individuals within the community (Dahl 1994).Social capital manifests itself in two ways. First, it creates individual feelings of trustand togetherness, producing informed and positi...</p></li></ul>


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