Political Science: Collective Action Lesson Study

Title: Collective Action Lesson Study
Authors: Jo Arney, Tim Dale, and Adam Van Liere; Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Political Science and Public Administration
Submission Date: June 28, 2013

Abstract: For the first part of the lesson students played a game called the Isle of Ted. Many collective action problems arise as part of the game and students unwittingly make choices that add to the overall lesson. The second part of the game is an interactive lecture that unpacks the lessons in the game and offers additional examples of collective action problems. Our findings suggest that allowing students to experience collective action problems first hand while playing the game allows them to apply the lesson to American National Government. Lesson Study in Political Science: Collective Action Lesson Study (Full Report)

Political Science: Examining Student Understanding of Ideology

Title: Examining Student Understanding of Ideology
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Political Science & Public Administration
Authors: Steve McDougal, Jeremy Arney, Ray Block, and Jo Arney, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date: May 2012

Abstract:  We sought to develop a richer understanding of ideology. At the end of the lesson we hoped students would be able to describe the key values that contribute to an individual’s ideology and would be able to explain why no two individuals have the exact same ideology. We observed improvement in student understanding over the course of two semesters.

Political Science Lesson Study: Examining Student Understanding of Ideology (Final Report)

Political Science: Global Summit on Sustainability

Title: Global Summit on Sustainability
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Political Science, Environmental Studies
Authors: Katia Levintova, Kevin Vonck, Terri Johnson, Denise Scheberle, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay
Submission Date: March 2, 2009

Executive Summary: The goals of introductory political science courses are not only to equip students with the fundamental knowledge about our discipline (that is about political processes at home and on the international level), but to give students a set of important skills, including political engagement, meaningful political citizenship (efficacy and agency), critical thinking, cultural empathy and respect for diversity (both domestic and global). To this end, four faculty members in Public and Environmental Affairs (Terri Johnson, Denise Scheberle, Kevin Vonck, and Katia Levintova) devised, piloted and refashioned a Global Summit on Sustainability. The summit pilot (Spring 2008) involved two sections of American Government (approximately 200 students) and one section of Global Politics (120 students).

The lesson study involved 29 student teams role-playing countries in a summit designed to adopt a global resolution on sustainability. Prior to the Global Summit session, a pre-Summit session was held. During pre-Summit students selected their roles, received instructions, and agreed upon the schedule for assignment completion. During the Global Summit, the global resolution was adopted as a result of compromises and negotiations among country delegations. Prior to the Global Summit, students researched their assigned country’s environmental, social, economic, and political problems that pertained to sustainable development. They also learned about the role their country played in international sustainable development efforts and international affairs in general. Each country delegation had to come up with a UN-like resolution on sustainable development which both addressed national needs and priorities and had a reasonable chance of being a framework for the global policy on sustainability. Preliminary negotiations started as soon as a resolution was approved by the delegation and posted on a D2L website created specially for the Summit. Students had one or two summit work days in class, but their work also took place outside the class as they worked in teams, and also on-line. The learning objective was for students to come away from the Summit empowered as citizens, with an increased understanding of and appreciation for global citizenship, domestic and global negotiations and policy-making, knowledgeable about their own country and the complexities of the world.

The Global Summit pilot (Spring 2008) and the slightly revised Global Summit (Fall 2008) increased students’ appreciation for global citizenship. Students perceived improved skills supportive of effective citizenship (negotiation and empathy). The change was measured through a survey instrument developed specifically for the Summit as well as observations of face-to-face and virtual (D2L) behavior and dialogues before and during the Summit and content analysis of quick reaction papers and longer (required) reflection papers. Most significantly, we detected the difference in means between the pre-Summit and post-Summit surveys, with the questions’ means increasing or decreasing in response to participation in the Summit. Qualitative content analysis of student written assignments also revealed increased sophistication in global thinking and negotiations skills.

Below are links to some additional material:

This section contains every handout or prompt mentioned in the description of the lesson.  It provides useful instructional materials to use with the lesson.

This presentation is shown during the Pre-Summit.  It provides brief overview of the project and is designed to introduce students to the global thinking.

This presentation helps keep the summit on track.

In this video students discuss their assignment.

Excerpts from the Global Summit on Sustainability Fall 2008.

Women’s Studies: Civic Engagement and Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership

Title: Teaching Civic Engagement: Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership in Women’s Studies
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Business, Education, History, Political Science, English
Authors: Lauren Smith, Ellie Schemenauer, Rebecca Schrum, Zohreh Ghavamshahidi, Mary Emery, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
Submission Date: October 29, 2009

Executive Summary: With this lesson study, we wanted to foster critical thinking about male-centered ideas of leadership and challenge students to imagine leadership and leadership styles in more inclusive ways. In addition, we wanted to explore ways of empowering students to move from understanding social issues to understanding their own responsibility and capacity for civic engagement, particularly by addressing the difficulties women students have in imagining themselves in leadership roles.

The group invited three women leaders, two in politics and one in education, to speak to a total of five different Introduction to Women’s Studies classes.  We helped the students come up with a series of questions to address to their visiting speaker, and members of the group were available to observe each class.  In addition, we asked students to respond to a series of pre-lecture and post-lecture questions.  The group met several times before and after each lesson to discuss plans and observations.  The most useful data we found, however, came from the pre- and post-lesson discussion boards.

Our findings were sometimes surprising and multi-faceted.  For example, when asked to cite examples of good leaders in the pre-speaker discussion board, these women’s studies students named mostly men.  This dynamic was especially pronounced for male students, the large majority of whom didn’t list any female leaders at all.  We also analyzed the pre-lesson discussion board for the masculine and feminine qualities associated with leadership.  We found that students were slightly more likely to associate leadership with qualities we identified as masculine than with qualities we identified as feminine.  Men were less likely than women to describe leadership in feminine terms and more likely than women to have a hierarchical vision of leadership. Pre-lesson questions about the students’ own capacity for leadership also yielded interesting gendered results.  While both male and female students were relatively positive about their own leadership capacity, women were most likely to qualify and contextualize their positive responses and men were most likely to reply with definite positive or negative responses.

The post-lesson discussion board also yielded interesting results.  When we asked students whether their ideas had changed as a result of the lesson, relatively few students were willing to say that the lesson had changed their perspective.  Many students responded with what we classified a “no, but . . .” response.  These students would qualify their negative response with details about how their thinking had in some way been affected, enhanced or modified.  Self-reported changes were once again gendered.  Both in relation to their thinking about leadership qualities generally and their thinking about their own leadership capacity, women were much more likely than men to report some change in their thinking as a result of the lesson.

When the group analyzed the discussion board for evidence of change beyond self-reports, the results were complicated.  The shifts we saw in the student discussion did not necessarily go in the directions that we had predicted or planned for, nor were student changes in thinking necessarily more feminist.  In addition, the qualitative changes in thinking were different depending on which speaker the students had seen.  Three promising threads emerged in the conversation, however:  speakers’ strength and ability to endure adversity, explicit conversation about gender, and the “down-to-earth” qualities of the speakers.  Each of these suggested to us the emergence of a more complicated and more feminized vision of leadership.

Students’ changes in attitude about their own leadership capacity were especially unpredictable.  We had assumed that women students would see themselves as more capable of leadership after the lesson.  Instead, all the students tended towards more specificity when they described their own abilities as leaders.  At first glance, this would suggest that students were less likely, rather than more likely, to see themselves as leaders.  After analyzing and discussing student responses, however, the group felt that student post-lesson responses showed greater sophistication, a more realistic idea about what leadership might involve, and a more thoughtful consideration of the questions than had been shown in the pre-lesson discussion board.

Overall, the lesson study was extremely useful in providing information both about student attitudes and about student learning processes.  The students clearly benefitted from the guest speakers we brought in.  They expressed enthusiasm about and engagement in the lesson.  Though the learning evidenced in the discussion board was often unpredictable, it was also profound.  Student thinking showed greater complexity and sophistication, as well as more depth and awareness around gender issues—even when the students did not arrive at conclusions we might have predicted or desired.  We also gained valuable insights about students’ gendered ideas about leadership and differing attitudes of male and female students on this topic.

History: The Gilded Age

Title: Lesson Study: The Gilded Age
Discipline(s) or Field(s): History, Political Science, Economics
Authors: Kathleen Thomas, Robert Zeidel, Kam Zogorski, University of Wisconsin – Stout
Submission Date: June 2, 2008

Executive Summary: Our learning goals revolve around students’ struggle to learn about strikes and government regulations because of their preconceived notions about unions and big government. We want students to understand why Americans supported an expansion of government regulations at the turn of the 20th century, especially why the middle-class initiated and drove these reforms in pursuit of “modernity.” Therefore, we begin with the problems of the Gilded Age. Here students learn about the extreme wealth disparities, high mortality and injury rates in the workplace, poor public health, violent reaction to strikes, high unemployment rates, and corrupt urban machine politics. We constructed our study around an interactive lecture with a primary document discussion group activity that was graded for historical interpretation (i.e., an explanation of why these events happened at this particular time and are still relevant for us today). We found that students’ preconceived notions of immigrants are their biggest stumbling block, but when we have them focus on their reactions to low wages, lack of workers’ compensation, etc., they are able to anticipate Progressive Era reforms. Students enjoyed and seemed more engaged when asked to respond personally; they were most frustrated when asked to apply the reading terms from the textbook and to stick to the historical context. Individual reflection followed by group work seems to minimize these frustrations. However, finding the time in or out of class to cover the topic, reflect, then discuss (and grade homework) was still problematic.


Links to lesson plan materials:

Links to the study of the lesson:

Next Phase: The Progressive Era.
These are historical documents used to connect the Gilded Age problems to the Progressive Era reforms:

Political Science: Israel-Palestine Conflict: Solutions to the Conflict

Title: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Solution to the Conflict
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Political Science, International Relations, Conflict Resolution, Area-Studies
Authors: Zohrer Ghavamshahidi and Charles Cottle, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Submission Date: December 3, 2008

Executive Summary

Learning Goals: The learning goals of this lesson study were the following:

  1. Acquire an overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of contemporary Middle-East history;
  2. Be able to identify the major actors in the conflict and know their positions on the major issues of the conflict;
  3. Be able to identify major features of the major peace proposal currently on the table.
  4. Be able to identify the major obstacles to peace.
  5. Be able to identify the pay-offs for peace for the main participants and for United States and regional foreign policy interests.

Instructional Design: The design consisted of two treatment effects, each delivered to a different class of Global Perspectives students. The first was conducted in spring 2007, and the second in fall 2007. In the first stage students were required to read an article prior to a lecture on the topic. Students were also given a set of questions directed toward an assessment of the the learning goals above. In the second treatment effect students again were assigned an outside reading on the subject, but the lesson was modified to include the use of Google Earth to identify regional demarcations of boundaries and terrain, and the in-class viewing of a short video on the subject. Students again heard the lecture and were given the set of questions directed toward the learning goals. In each case there was a discussion after the lecture regarding the questions to assess student success in mastering the material.

Major Findings: Student response, both in terms of knowledge and effect, was much more positive in the second treatment effect than in the first.

Links and References for Class Materials: