Hello! I’m Dr. Josh Franco, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cuyamaca College located in east San Diego County, California. Thank you for joining me for part one of the American Political Science Association’s two-part webinar.
This series features three video presentations showcasing community college faculty’s approaches to online political science education.
In this first video, I’m going to discuss three teaching resources on state and local politics. Please be sure to watch my two other colleagues’ videos before joining us for our live webinar in January 2021.
Welcome to Teaching State and Local Politics. My name is Dr. Josh Franco and I teach at Cuyamaca College. Let’s begin with a list of three resources. The first resource I’ll share is Student Power, lecture, activity, and discussion. The second resource is the Public Policy Project Workbook. And the third resource is Holding Government Accountable, lecture, activity, and discussion
Resource one: Student Power. Student Power consists of lecture, discussion, and activity. And it includes the following: Learning Objectives, What is Student Power? Why a Student Power Important? The Next Generation; What can I do On-campus? And What can I do Off-campus? Let’s explore resource one.
In teaching state and local politics, it’s important for me to center on the student and the power that they have to change their local and state communities.
First up our learning objectives. Learning objectives, clarify to them student what they’ll be able to do after completing this learning unit. In this case, define student power, identify at least one opportunity to exercise their power on-campus, and identify at least one opportunity to exercise their power off of campus.
Now, what is student power? Well, student power is the social and political power inherently held by students. Students represent the future. Therefore, they are a social force. Students also represent future voters. Therefore they are a political force.
Now why is student power important? Well, student power is important because it is understudied, undervalued and underestimated. However, students become self-aware, they can unlock their power and help others unlock their power as well.
Now when discussing what students can do on campus, there’s at least four options they can consider: student government; student clubs and organizations; college/university governance councils and committees. And for those of you in community colleges, we have district governing boards that are typically locally elected.
When considering the question, what can a student do off-campus? I present the following three options: city commissions, county commissions, and state boards and commissions. Now, the reason I offer these as options is because this is a practical way that students can get involved in the public policy process related to where they live or the state that they reside in.
Next up is a discussion portion of this assignment. In order to motivate this discussion, I offer a set of questions that students can either answer on a discussion board or that can be discussed through a synchronous Zoom meeting. For example, what are the pros and cons of exercising power on campus versus off campus? Or what are at least three reasons why students are engaged in politics? Or the flip side: why are, what are at least three reasons students are disengaged from politics? Each of these questions are open-ended and allow for students to engage in a conversation.
Typically, when I have this on an online discussion board, students are asked to choose one of these questions or to create their own, and then to answer it. And then when they reply to one of their classmates, they’re asked to give at least three to five sentences worth of a reply.
Additionally, I included further readings. For example, Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use it. Also, The Student Leadership Challenge: Five Practices for Becoming an Exemplary Student Leader. And then lastly, Civic Revolutionaries: Igniting the Passion for Change in America’s communities.
Resource two is the Public Policy Project Workbook. The Public Policy Project Workbook consists of the following elements: a Discussion; My Public Problem; Data Analyst Roundtable; GIS Analyst Roundtable; Policy Analysts Roundtable; Communications Analyst Roundtable; Presentation; Pair-share-Think; and a Reflection. Let’s explore resource two.
In teaching state and local politics, it’s important for me to introduce students to the public policy process and aiding students through this process I’ve developed a workbook. Now, this workbook is currently in its Spring 2021 edition so you guys get it hot off the press.
Now the workbook consists of 13 different chapters. Now you’ll notice that there are also optional assignments that are included or available to students for those who want to further develop the technical expertise behind some of these analyst workflows.
Chapter 1, the Introduction, helps to bring the idea of public policy to the student. It lists the learning objectives for the Public Policy Project, gives an explanation of revised Bloom’s taxonomy, provides a link to a Google drive that has all the files that they should need, and then offers additional readings on domestic and foreign policy available through OpenStax’s American Government 2E.
Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the Public Policy Project. The key here is to demonstrate to students that there are 9 different assessments that they’re asked to complete over the duration of the project, which can range anywhere from six weeks to 16 weeks, depending on how your terms are organized.
And here I list in a table the assessments, and then what are the requirements for that assessment? So, for example, you’ll see here that Classroom Discussion, requires a five sentence post, five sentences for their first reply to a peer, and then five sentences for a second reply to a peer.
Chapter 3 describes the classroom discussion of public problems, causes and effects. I always begin with an About section to help make it clear what this assignment is about. So for example, problems can be classified as private or public private problems are problems that affect a single individual, while public problems affect many individuals or an ecosystem. Public problems can emerge when private problems spill into the public sphere or consciousness. Discussing public problems involves face-to-face and online interactions between students.
Chapter 4, My Public Problem, is building on the discussion from the prior chapter. So after discussing public problems, students can decide to share which public problem they want to focus on for the duration of the project. Now, the benefit of engaging in a discussion before deciding your public problem is that the students’ peers have knowledge and lived experiences that help them frame the public problem and consider other causes and effects.
Now validating their peers’ public problems moves us away from “my public problem is more important than your public problem” debate to thoughtfully considering what the public problem is, what the causes of the problem are, and what are the effects of the problem.
Chapter 5 introduces What is an Analyst Workflow? Now, analysts are working towards addressing one or all aspects of the public problem through the workflows. Workflows are a series of tasks that each analyst needs to complete in order to help produce a presentation. Now, the public problem a student chooses will shape the details of each analyst workflow.
Chapter 6 asks and answers the question: What is a Roundtable? Now, I share with my students that before I became a professor, I worked in the state Capitol and the U.S. Congress for five years and had many projects over those years. For example, forming a coalition of student leaders, drafting legislation, or building policy networks to support initiatives.
As I was working on these projects, my colleagues and I literally sat around a table and checked in with each other and the elected official. So the purpose of the round tables is to help replicate that experience.
Chapter 7, 8, 9, and 10 begin the exploration of specific analyst workflows. So Chapter 7 focuses on the data analyst. Now here I describe what data analysis is. I explain what objects that data analysts work with. And then I mentioned the idea that there’s software available for students to use these tools.
Now, in my classes, I do not have a required data analysis element like in using STATA or RStudio, but I do want my students to know that these are elements that are available to them as they move on later in their career.
Now each workflow specifically mentions the estimated time it should take to complete and learning objectives. And here I’ll show what a data analyst workflow looks like. It consists of a series of steps. First step is an overview of data analysis software. Second step is exploring causal models. The third step is identifying the unit of observation that the students focused on. The fourth step is to draw a slash create three causal models related to their public problem. And step five is to create their data analyst highlight presentation slide for their presentation.
Now with each analyst’s workflow, there’s a rubric that is available. And essentially as long as they check in and say that they’re here, or they ask questions, they make comments, they share concerns, they make suggestions, they offer resources, then I note that as well.
Chapter 8 Geographic Information Systems Analyst Workflow and Roundtable introduces students to GIS. For students coming into college for the first time, it’s important that they’re introduced to this new, growing field, and realize that there’s a range of opportunities that come with learning this skillset.
With this workflow and roundtable, what I’m doing is defining GIS, explaining what it is, and offering students the opportunity to explore it in some detail as it relates to their public problem. So for example, the first step of the workflow is to watch short videos about ArcGIS, which is an industry leading software. Secondly, I offer them to read a book chapter on GIS. Step three is to find at least three maps online related to their public problem. And then the fourth and final step is to create their GIS analyst highlight presentation slide.
Chapter 9 Policy Analyst Workflow and Roundtable. Now, this is something I want to focus on just a bit, because it’s one of my strengths. Now policy analysis is the process of identifying potential policy options that could address a public problem, and then comparing those options to choose the most effective, efficient, and feasible one.
Now conducting policy analysis ensures that students have gone through a systematic process of choosing an option that is best for the situation. Policy analysts work with existing and proposed laws and regulations, decision-making processes at the individual, local, state, national, and international level and with elected and appointed officials.
Now this policy workflow consists of the following steps. First is exploring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s POLARIS policy website, which is a, freely accessible resource that describes the policy process.
The second step is for students to identify specific federal law, or regulation, or judicial ruling that needs to be changed or overruled to help solve their public problem.
And in step three, students are asked to identify a state law or regulation or judicial ruling.
And in step four, they’re asked to identify a local law or regulation related to their public problem. And their last step is to create there a highlight slide that includes some of the information I asked them through to extract through that process.
Chapter 10, Communications Analyst Workflow and Roundtable, is about letting students see that there’s a world out there to develop their communication skills through graphic arts and through, infographics software.
Chapter 11 describes the My PowerPoint Presentation that students are asked to finally compile as they reached the end of their public policy project. Now, the reason this is only estimated to take 120 minutes is that students should have been working on this throughout the prior chapters.
Throughout this process, I make sure to offer students a template so that they can, use it as the framework, in building their presentation. So let me go ahead and share this presentation so you can take a look at how it’s organized.
Now, the presentation template consists of a Title slide, a Public Problem slide, Causes of the Problem, Effects of the Problem, the Data Analyst Highlight, the GIS Analyst Highlight, the Policy Analyst Highlight, the Communication Analysts Highlight, 3 Solutions to the Problem, and then 3 statements reflecting on the experience. And concluding with a Work Cited.
It’s important for me to have this template available to my students, because I may have some who aren’t familiar with PowerPoint or with Google slides.
Chapter 12, asked students to engage in a Pair-Share-Think discussion. Now, in order to facilitate this process in an online space, it turns into a discussion board. And when I asked students to do is to upload their presentation that they submitted in the prior chapter, but make sure that now it’s available to all students so that they can see. And to write a five sentence summary of their presentation. From there, I ask them to reply to one peer and answer the following four questions: what did you find most similar about your classmates presentation to your own? What’d you find least similar. What about your classmates presentation did you find most interesting? And the fourth question is where do you think your classmates presentation can improve?
Chapter 13, My Reflection, this is the last part of the public policy project. These reflections are a wonderful opportunity for students to share with me what they thought about the experience and it also gives students the opportunity to communicate directly with me what they liked, what they disliked, and what they think can be improved for future terms.
Resource three: Holding Government Accountable. This includes a lecture, activity and discussion, and there’s two parts to it: a local government element and a state government element. The local government element includes: Learning Objectives, What is local government? Census of Governments; Types of local governments; Examples of local governments; and How can I get involved?
State government includes the following: Learning Objectives, what are state boards and commissions?; list of state boards and commissions; examples of state boards and commissions; and how can I get involved? Let’s explore resource three.
Now in teaching about state and local politics, it’s important to bring it all together. So in the first resource we centered around the student and the power that they have, and the second resource extensively walk students through the process of public policy and looking at it from four different analyst roles: data, GIS, policy, and communications.
And now with this third resource, it’s about tying it together and taking action. So this part is called Holding Government Accountable. Now, this consists of lecture and it focuses on the local government and on the state government.
Now for the local government, the learning unit objectives include defining what local government is, identifying at least one opportunity or one type of local government, and identifying at least one opportunity to get involved in local government.
The idea is that students will carry through with them from their public policy project that public problem, and finding the avenue in which they can advocate, or they can, share their views with a broader, and more specific policymaking group or organization.
Now, when it comes to holding government accountable, it’s typical to focus on the state government and the officials like the governor or the state legislature or the courts. But what I like to do is to get students into the weeds of state government and specifically and to state boards and commissions.
And so for this part of the lecture, what I have are the following learning objectives: explain what state boards and commissions are, describe the appointments process, and identify at least one state board or commission you would be interested in attending, speaking at, or serving on. Now this isn’t the flashy and the glamorous, right? This isn’t the high profile election that occurs every four years. It’s really about the mundane process of how you make change in your community.
Thank you for watching video one of the American Political Science Association’s webinar “Approaches to Virtual Learning in Core Political Science Courses.”
Please be sure to watch the other two videos.
We look forward to seeing you during our webinar’s second event this January 2021.