In January and February, I wrote about changes I had made in my annual comparative politics course:
Student output in the collaborative qualitative comparative analyses, an assignment discussed in the Part 4 post linked above, proved disappointing. Despite extensive scaffolding, students did not demonstrate an understanding of how to determine cause and effect. Here is a simplified version of what one team produced; the other team’s QCA was nearly identical:
|Less Economic Growth||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Less Citizen Political Participation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Higher Disease Mortality||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
There is no variation in the values for the independent or dependent variables. Nor are the independent variables likely to be causes, rather than effects, of the dependent variable — the direction of causality is ambiguous. The QCA provides no logical explanation for increased authoritarianism.
So next time around, I will have to specify that 1) variables must vary, and 2) causes can’t be effects.
From my perspective, these kinds of assignments get more prescriptive and less analytical with each tweak I make to them. While I don’t want them to devolve into mindless fill-in-the-blank worksheet exercises, it seems that is where they are headed.