Political Science Now

The Role of Social Group Membership on Classroom Participation

The Role of Social Group Membership on Classroom Participation

by Şule Yaylacı, University of British Columbia and Edana BeauvaisUniversity of British Columbia

Active and cooperative learning is integral to many social science classes as they increase student motivation, improve communication skills, and stimulate creative thinking. Many political science departments break large lectures down into smaller, weekly tutorial groups to foster active learning. But do all students participate equally in active, participatory learning? We use an original dataset measuring self-reported participation and important predictors (student gender, race, and language proficiency) collected from 700 undergraduate students in 91 political science tutorials. We find that participation does vary across social groups, even when controlling for psychological and some contextual factors. Female students participate significantly less than males, racial minorities report speaking less frequently than white students, and students with lower English-proficiency (the language of instruction) also participate less. Considering these findings, we offer suggestions for instructors on how to motivate all students to find their voice in the classroom.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 50, Issue / April 2017pp. 559-564