Political Science Education and the Profession

A Contingency Approach to the Undergraduate Political Science Major

Fletcher McClellan Author ORCID home | opens in new tab Elizabethtown College


There is a variety of curricular models for organizing the undergraduate political science major. Among them are the traditional distribution model, which exposes students to various subfields in the discipline, and the sequenced learning framework recommended by the Wahlke Report. Other structures include the student learning outcomes approach and civic engagement education, the latter a recent area of emphasis in the discipline. Embedded in these and other course arrangements are underlying theories of how students learn, what a curriculum is, its purpose, and its pedagogy. This study applies curriculum theory to current and potential models of the political science curriculum, describing the strengths and limitations of each structure as a platform for promoting intended learning. The findings suggest that the future political science major should not be a one-size-fits-all framework, but rather a choice from curricula that best address different learning goals and objectives, kinds of students, and program needs.


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