Political Science Now

Using Twitter to Promote Classroom and Civic Engagement

Chapter 10:  Using Twitter to Promote Classroom and Civic Engagement

Gina Serignese Woodall, Arizona State University and Tara M. LennonArizona State University

How can educators harness social media to promote civic engagement? Over three spring semesters, we conducted a nonequivalent control group design experiment in which one class each semester was required to tweet weekly about the course topics and another class was not. In the third year, we also conducted focus groups about students’ use of social media to obtain and share political information. Preliminary results of the experiment show that the treatment classes had statistically higher political knowledge and political engagement through Twitter compared to the control classes. Preliminary results also suggest some nuanced gender differences in how participants use Twitter. Compared to other social media, such as Facebook, Twitter leans toward more direct, personal—and often confrontational—communication. While female participants used Twitter for political purposes to a greater extent than male students in our study, the gendered impact of the Twitter requirement is not clear. Our focus group discussions further developed some of our findings regarding the factors that motivate students to follow certain types of political social media accounts. By examining students’ motivations and social media behaviors, this chapter contributes to the emerging research on how educators can encourage e-civic engagement habits that foster active citizenship and political knowledge.

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About the Authors

Gina Serignese Woodall is a senior lecturer of political science in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University.  Her current work focuses on political science pedagogy, including twitter in the classroom.  She has also co-authored papers on women, the media, and politics.


Tara M. Lennon teaches political theory and oversees the Legislative Internship program at Arizona State University (ASU). She earned her BA in government and psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and her MA and PhD in political theory and international relations at ASU. Between 2000 and 2011, she evaluated the effectiveness of state agencies and school districts and managed research projects on education funding and academic achievement for the Auditor General’s Office, a nonpartisan research branch of the Arizona State Legislature. Since returning to academia, she has conducted research in the science of teaching and learning, earning grants from the Spencer Foundation to explore whether teaching with social media promotes civic engagement and ASU’s Center for Education through eXploration to study the impact of teaching with simulations.

Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association / pp: 135-150