Cultivating Causal Literacy in the Political Science Classroom


How might educators cultivate causal literacy in the classroom? Scholars observe that too often real-world actors fail to adequately understand the problems they confront; moreover, the theories of action that underlie many real-world interventions are superficial, tacit, or altogether absent. Drawing from the comparativist Craig Parsons's work on causal logics and the political theorist William Connolly's work on complexity in politics, I describe two sets of classroom practices that educators might use to improve students understanding of real-world problems and the mindful crafting of interventions to address these problems. These core skills inherent in these practices, which compose an experiential-learning environment, include privileging a journal articles or chapters causal story; aggregating several causal stories together to create a framework; and applying these causal stories to a real-world historical or contemporary political challenge to propose an intervention. I use the literature on civil wars as an example.



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