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United States History

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Mapping Policy Issues: A Simple, Active-Learning Exercise For Critical Thinking, Richard Holtzman May 2019

Mapping Policy Issues: A Simple, Active-Learning Exercise For Critical Thinking, Richard Holtzman

History and Social Sciences Faculty Journal Articles

Many students in my undergraduate American politics courses struggle to see policy issues as complex. Too often, they get stuck making surface-level observations or jumping straight to personal opinions, falling far short of critical thinking. This article introduces an active-learning exercise—situational mapping—that provokes students to recognize and think critically about the complexities of policy issues such as immigration, abortion, campaign financing, and guns. Adapted from a grounded-theory research technique, the goals of this mapping exercise are to (1) help students see policy issues as messy, (2) encourage them to “wallow in complexity” rather than oversimplify, and (3) provoke ...