TLO7, 8 are sharing the same resources.
What are the student barriers to learning?
Rigour in argument
Students often fail to fully appreciate the differences between rigorous academic arguments about politics, and the rhetorical way in which many politicians and media commentators “argue” about politics. Because there is so much material written about politics in the public domain, students often have difficulty identifying appropriate sources to use for academic work. In particular, they do not appreciate the difference between media commentary and academic journal articles. The students miss the “positionality” of text sources they use, overlooking the quality-checking role of peer review. Students can then mistake partisanship for substance, and consistency for fair-mindedness. This confusion among students results in inadequately researched essays. It can also reinforce misconceptions about the nature of political argument.
Limits of digital literacy
Recent research on the ‘Google generation’ suggest that the accomplished digital literacy of students does not translate into information literacy. When these students are asked to engage with academic sources and the Internet they still may still be unable to evaluate information and they may be frustrated by the challenge (Thornton, 2010; CIBER, 2008).
Our teaching strategies
Academics need to explain what to look for as a sign of quality in a reading: the referencing, the peer review, the depth of evidence, the attention to the contexts of the standpoints, and indeed to the existence of other standpoints. Often textbooks fail to do this job; because they are often under-referenced and sometime lacking in supporting evidence, they can sometimes hide the very indications of quality in a reading that academics really need their students to acquire.
This means that lecturers need to introduce students specifically to critical reading and evaluation of articles from a variety of sources. The academic and help students understand the difference between evidence-based analysis and mere arrangement and criticism. This can be explicitly modelled in lectures or tutorials. The lecturer can have the students work in small groups or individually to find the lines of argument and topic sentences. Exemplars of good writing can be used to show students how someone constructs an argument with appropriate evidence. Frame exercises that model and teach students how to analyse what they are reading, and how to accept there’s more than one way of looking at something.
The open-ended nature of problem-based learning in Politics and IR has been seen as a good way to develop students’ skills in critical reading, above and beyond fact collection. This is because there is no script for them to follow, only an interest to develop and explain. Using a problem-based approach allows a student to examine a topic considering a number of alternatives and perspectives.
An additional library workshop program, designed to inform students of research sources available to them, has also been shown to help students go beyond a ‘one-shot’ approach to research.
Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research, UCL (CIBER). (2008). Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future.
Cooke, P. & Walsh, M. (2012). Collaboration and problem-based learning: integrating information literacy into a political science course. Communications in Information Literacy, 6(1), 59-72.
Stevens, C.R. & Campbell, Patricia, J. (2008). Collaborating with librarians to develop lower divisions political science students’ information literacy. Journal of Political Science Education, 4(2), 225-252.
Thornton, S. (2010). From ‘scuba-diving’ to ‘jet-skiing’: information behavior, political science, and the google generation. Journal of Political Science Education 6(4): 363-68.