Truman School Receives American Political Science Association Peer-to-Peer Pedagogical Partnership Grant to Improve Undergraduate Teaching

Debbie Cutler
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In December 2021, Lael Keiser and James Endersby of the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs heard about a $35,000 resource shared grant that would help attract students to MU and other Missouri colleges and universities that otherwise might not graduate with degrees, including first-generation, disadvantaged, and under-represented minority students.

The APSA (American Political Science Association) Peer-to-Peer Pedagogical Partnership Grant, to be used for shared instructional resources for introductory government and political science classes, was awarded to the Truman School, as well as St. Louis Community College (led by John Messmer) and Missouri State Southern University (led by Nicole Foster Shoaf). It is a relatively new grant.

Links Across Missouri

“This grant is designed to link research universities, like MU, with other teaching schools to try to encourage up-to-date and innovative and effective teaching tools for undergraduate students,” Endersby says. “One of the intentions is to reach out to two-year colleges, community colleges, and others – especially students from minority backgrounds -- to help educate them in a more innovative way.”

The reach will be to political science departments throughout Missouri, with the goal of providing more teaching resources and common core curriculum, Endersby adds.

We are not trying to tell other schools what to do, rather we are trying to be an effective leader. - Endersby

He cites as an example, a basic American government course, like the one offered at Mizzou, titled Political Science 1100, American Government. In Missouri, there is a state government legislation that requires all undergraduate students to have a course on the U.S. and Missouri constitutions.

“We have thousands of students who go through government courses every year,” he says. “And, of course, we have transfer students who are taking that course, or a similar course at another university. And so, part of the purpose is to help us provide coordinating strategies, so we do an equally good job throughout the state in terms of educating undergraduate students.”

Changes That Benefit All

“The Truman School is changing the focus of our department – the merging of political science with public affairs – and our intent is to become more of a leader in terms of political science and public policy,” Endersby says. “And so, I think the direction we’re going fits this initiative perfectly. We are not trying to tell other schools what to do, rather we are trying to be an effective leader.”

Endersby says the Truman School hopes to represent about two dozen universities, with TSGPA at the helm, demonstrating how reaching out to the underserved should and could work better for all involved.

“We’re trying to develop that model because we don’t exactly know what it is either. But we’re going to give it our best try to help, so MU can become the center of a network of colleges across the state, which I think is what the public wants in Missouri; I think it’s what the State Legislature wants.”

Conference in Late May

The $35,000 grant will be used to bring faculty from other universities across the state to a two-day conference held May 26 – 27 at the Memorial Student Union, and also via zoom. The grant will pay for travel, research assistance support, and more.

“The conference is the big event where we bring everyone together in a way that’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Endersby says. “We are also going to have a website where instructors from across the state can put on teaching ideas that will help train students. For instance, several people expressed interest in simulations, role-playing simulations, which seem to work well in political science. You can understand Congress a little better if you play the role of a congressman and see how difficult it is to get a piece of legislation passed. A lot of different people in different schools have developed role-playing simulations that work. We have a number that we’ve developed here at MU.”

Purpose to Assist Across Statewide

The website will also have writing assignments, tips for academic improvement and more – again with the goal of helping minority and underserved students have success at college.

Endersby says the purpose is not to bring students to MU, but rather assist statewide. Though he does expect efforts to increase MU’s aim to bring more minority groups here as well.

“MU is underrepresented in terms of many minority groups, and it’s something we want to rectify. This will benefit students and faculty, and the university. I think we’ll learn a lot about how to teach these students and reach out to students who don’t have the background that MU has typically served.”