Teaching Politics in the National Parks

Robert Pahre, Carie Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Other than trips to government offices, political science has generally not used field experiences as part of the undergraduate curriculum. To illustrate the possibilities of such experiences, we discuss field-based courses and curricular units at three sites. Each uses a national park to teach students about environmental politics and policy issues. The course designs use experiential education theory to define learning objectives and the means to achieve them. We provide evidence from students’ self-reported academic and nonacademic outcomes that is consistent with the expectations of experiential theory. Not surprisingly, course evaluations are high. More important for experiential curricula, students report high levels of motivation in these courses, whether the experience is long or short, whether advertised in advance or not. Though self-selection may explain some of the positive outcomes, two before-and-after surveys suggest that experiential outcomes exceed expectations in interesting ways. In short, students like field experiences, the field experiences motivate them to learn, they learn more effectively, and they enjoy these courses more. Experiential opportunities should play a more important role in the political science curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-318
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015

Keywords

  • experiential learning
  • field experiences
  • learning outcomes
  • motivated learning
  • national parks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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