Call for Submissions: Special Issue

The Journal of Political Science Education has issued a call for submissions for a special issue: Dealing with Explosive Issues in Today’s Classroom.

“Teaching political science can be challenging for many reasons.  We often discuss topics that students have a vested interest in, subjects that can be very upsetting for some students, or topics about which students may vociferously disagree. For this special issue of the Journal of Political Science Education, we are looking for submissions (systematic quantitative or qualitative studies, case studies, or reflections) that investigate how political science educators can deal with a variety of explosive issues that arise in classroom discussions or are at the core of political science syllabi. Specifically, we are looking for manuscripts about novel, effective approaches to these issues, and about how educators deal with classroom challenges that arise organically from:

  • Teaching about race, sex, gender, and discrimination.
  • Teaching during a time of fear or political contentiousness.
  • Teaching when our methods go awry (or show unexpected results).

If you are interested in submitting a manuscript, or have questions or suggestions, please contact the editors at Deadline for submissions is March 1, 2017.”

Journal of Political Science Education

Today we have a post from Victor Asal, University of Albany – SUNY:

Dear ALPSblog readers and writers,

All the news that’s fit to print.

I am writing to you as the new editor in chief of the Journal of Political Science Education (JPSE). The team of editors — myself, Mitchell Brown, Shane Nordyke, Joseph W. Roberts, Mark Johnson, and J. Cherie Strachan — would like to encourage you to submit manuscripts to the journal. The journal has become a important outlet for sharing ideas and knowledge about pedagogy in political science since its inception, and we would like to encourage further growth as the journal moves into being an Association-wide journal of the American Political Science Association.   We also would like to make readers aware that the types of manuscripts that JPSE is looking for has widened and we believe that the variety of sections we now have in the journal will be of great interest to you both as readers and as contributors.  We are continuing the tradition of JPSE of publishing articles devoted to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, but we are expanding the reach of the journal to include case studies, examples of useful approaches to teaching, and reflections on teaching from a variety of perspectives. Specifically we are looking for:

  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (editors: Mitchell Brown and Shane Nordyke): Submissions should use the highest standard of evidence in writing about evidence-based approaches to teaching practices and encourage assessment of such teaching and practices. Submissions can be diverse in terms of topic, analytic approach, and levels of analysis, but must maintain systematic methodological approaches. Length of manuscript may range from 3,000-8,000 words, and research notes between 2,000-5,000 words. Authors of accepted papers will be required to make datasets publically available online through their choice of venue or provide a compelling rationale if they are unable to do so.
  • Political Science Instruction (editor: Joseph Roberts): Submissions should focus on innovative teaching cases that discuss useful pedagogy, including strategies, games, and experiential learning in teaching political science to diverse audiences. They should also be organized around real classroom problems and potential solutions.  Submissions may range in length from 2,000-4,000 words.
  • Reflections on Teaching and the Academy (editor: Mark Johnson): Submissions should be from experienced scholar-teachers that focus on reflections on timely and important teaching topics that include transitioning between institutional types, teaching under-prepared students, training graduate students for teaching careers, and other issues. Submissions may range in length from 1,000-2,000 words.
  • Books, Teaching Tools, & Educational Resources (editor: J. Cherie Strachan): Submissions should help readers identify available new books, software and resources, and to improve classroom and co-curricular learning experiences through reviews of textbooks, pedagogy tools and other related resources. Submissions may range in length from 500-2,000 words.

If you have any questions, such as whether a topic is appropriate for the journal, feel free to email me or the editor of the section you think is the best fit for a submission.

Being a Research Consumer: The Article Sort

Becoming a competent consumer of political science scholarship is almost always an objective of my courses, especially general education courses intended to expose students to the social scientific way of thinking. To support this objective, a long ways back I wrote a document called “Reading and Understanding Political Science,” which is an undergraduate’s guide to types of scholarship in political science, the parts of an empirical article, and questions to ask oneself while reading quantitative, qualitative, and formal modeling publications. We typically read this for the second day of class, when most are still struggling to obtain textbooks in this new order-by-mail world. After a brief review of the typology and parts, we engage in The Great Article Sort.

To begin, we brainstorm a list of key words and other ways to tell what type of article an item is. Then I pair students off, have them introduce themselves, and distribute 2-3 articles from a pile that I’ve prepared to each pair. Their task is to classify as many articles as they can in 5-8 minutes; extras (and ones that pairs have finished) go in a stack up front for recirculation. The pair with the most correct classifications at the end gets 2 bonus points, so they make two copies of their findings – one to turn in at the conclusion of the sort period, and one to keep for discussion. At the conclusion of the work period, I collect a copy from each group and we review their responses as a class – both what they decided and how they knew. The whole activity, including debrief, takes about 20-25 minutes, depending on how many items they want to discuss.

Preparation for this activity took about 45 minutes and consisted mostly of using JSTOR and the internet to access publications where I knew I could find articles of various types (literature reviews, empirical, op-eds, modeling and other theoretical pieces, etc.) across the various subfields of political science. For longer items, usually I printed only the first 4 pages; printing two pages to a sheet and both sides of the paper meant that they’re still only one piece of paper in the stack. Sometimes I was able to reuse items I had in my personal collection that I no longer needed (e.g., spare copies from something distributed in a previous term). I had about 25 items labeled with letters, and usually two copies of each so that we had enough to go around. This wasn’t enough for a 35-person class. If I were prepping this activity again, I’d aim for 40 items and number them, and be very selective in the debrief discussion.

ALPS Summer School

Scribe PortraitAre you interested in turning a classroom experience into a journal article? If so, we’d like to help. If you send us a rough idea of your topic in the form of a guest post, we will publish it. We will then provide feedback in the form of either comments or a series of subsequent posts. You will have the opportunity to respond. The end goal is to workshop the idea and help you produce a manuscript on pedagogy that can be submitted to a journal like PS, Journal of Political Science Education, European Political Science, or International Studies Perspectives.

Send your ideas to us at


Beginner’s Guide to Simulations: Part 1, Reducing the Workload

Many of our regular readers on ALPS already use simulations and games in their classes.  But plenty of folks find us because they are interested in learning about new-to-them pedagogies, and want some guidance in how to use them in their classes.  For these folks, we are starting a new series here on ALPS: The Beginner’s Guide to Simulations.  This recurring series will focus on helping new adopters (and those who might want some reminders and encouragement!) work through the challenges of using simulations and games in the college classroom.

Before their first time using a simulation in class, most instructors face one or more of the following concerns:

  1. Creating and running a simulation is a lot of work…
  2. ..for little payoff. Simulations are not a good substitute for the tried-and-true lecture for learning.
  3. The simulation will take up too much time in-class, forcing me to give up coverage of important content.
  4. The simulation might fail, either due to my own mistakes or lack of student interest, and will therefore be a waste of time.

These concerns are largely valid, but not necessarily deal breakers. With more than sixty simulations published just in The Journal of Political Science Education and PS: Political Science & Politics in the last ten years, clearly there are a number of scholars who have found designing simulations to be a worthwhile endeavor.  In the first few entries in this series, I’m going to unpack each of these four concerns and propose some ideas and solutions to move us from fearful to excited about using simulations.

Part One: Reducing the Workload of Using Simulations and Games

Continue reading

Outsourcing Manuscript Reviews

Smile SecretaryAcademic journal editors regularly ask me to anonymously review manuscripts that have been submitted for publication. Given that this work is unpaid and has a negligible effect on my prospects for promotion, it usually ends up far from the top of my priority list.

I recently realized that this task could be outsourced to undergraduate students as a writing assignment. Students in many of my courses already analyze journal articles, so why not make the process experiential? They can use the same guidelines and rubrics they use now, but with a more authentic role, audience, and format.

I can see a series of scaffolded components to this exercise:

  • Evaluate the manuscript from a stylistic perspective. Is the writing free of  mechanical errors? Is it concise and easy to follow?
  • Locate a piece of literature in the manuscript’s bibliography. Analyze it using the criteria that I link to above. Explain whether the author of the manuscript under review is referencing this literature appropriately.
  • Analyze the argument in the manuscript itself using the same criteria.
  • Make a recommendation about the manuscript–for example, accept, revise, or reject–and justify one’s recommendation. This could be performed in teams as a collaborative activity, with the members of each team deciding upon a joint recommendation and then presenting this recommendation to the class.
  • I compile the students’ work into a single assessment of the manuscript and submit it to the journal’s editorial staff.

The downside to this idea is that I never know when I will be asked to review a manuscript, so I can’t schedule it as an assignment before the course starts. But I’ve found that both I and my students often enjoy a change in routine.