Political Science Education and the Profession

Developing Civic Responsibilities in a Large Lecture through Debates

Emily Lynch University of Rhode Island
How do political scientists encourage students in a large lecture to develop civic responsibilities? One way to foster political responsibilities is to promote debate in the classroom (e.g., Campbell 2008; Oros 2007). It can be a challenge to encourage students to strengthen their civic skills through debate in a large classroom setting with nearly 400 students. I examine three key areas to assess the effectiveness of debates in the classroom as a tool to increase student exposure to and engagement in political discussion, including: 1) the importance of discussing debate topics in the lectures and recitations, 2) the use of technology to encourage debate participation, and 3) the development of proper assessments to gauge whether students have critically analyzed the debate topics. Given the recent high levels of partisan animosity (Pew Research Center 2014), it is imperative that college students learn to respectfully debate important political issues.