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Room for manoeuvre: A report on experiments in alternative teaching and learning methods in politics

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This article reports on three different experiments in alternative methods of undergraduate teaching in a Department of Politics at a British university over the last five years. The experiments showed that quite simple innovations in teaching methods can raise substantially the level and quality of student participation and performance in seminars as well as their writing skills, and that most students are capable of reaching and maintaining high levels of intellectually serious commitment to their studies. These innovations illustrated that achieving these levels is far less a function of the calibre of particular students than it is of the methods which engage all students' interests and energies and whose structure starts from a premise of much higher than usual expectations of them, requiring sustained hard work to be met. The article also seeks to show that despite constraints on innovation in university teaching methods and the absence of any real institutional incentives for academics to try, there is considerable scope for individuals to initiate experimental changes within established arrangements to better meet the widely accepted goals of university education. The innovations described here may provide some useful pointers to the very much wider range of possibilities that are available when and if universities begin to devote as much attention to improvements in teaching objectives, methods and expectations as they have been compelled to do with respect to research and management, whether this is forced upon them or whether it arises from their own initiatives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Politics, University of York

Publication date: 01 January 1987

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