Enabling Faculty to Adopt Deliberative Democracy Pedagogy: a tool to broaden and engage

Gwen Shusterman, Portland State University

Selected as a Rapid Talk at the NSEC 2017 National Conference

Program Activities Type

Teaching Circles/Learning Communities

Program Components

Curriculum Development
Interdepartmental Collaboration
Pedagogical Training
Student Engagement
Institutional Systems:Incentive/Reward Systems
Outreach:Outreach to K12 Teachers and Students
Professional Development:Student Assessment
Supporting Students:Professional Preparation

Target Audience

First-year College Students
First Generation College Students
Graduate Students
Non-tenure Track Faculty
Teaching/Learning Assistants
Tenured/Tenure-track Faculty
Transfer Students
Undergraduate Majors
Underrepresented Minority Students

Program Point of Intervention


Program Description

This project has been focused on catalyzing pedagogical innovation in introductory science courses. In particular, structures have been put in place to facilitate the implementation of the model of Deliberative Democracy Pedagogy (DDP). DDP is an active learning strategy, based on deliberative democratic models of citizen engagement in science policymaking. This integrative pedagogical approach, revises the delivery of conventional introductory science content around modules that engage students with current science policy controversies. Teaching teams of faculty and graduate students have attended summer pedagogical workshops, developed curricular modules, implemented the modules and participated in regular Communities of Practice meetings.

Program Purpose

While many faculty recognize the limitations of a traditional lecture style pedagogical approach, the choices and the work needed to reform course curriculum can be overwhelming. This project aims to provide an active learning classroom pedagogy that is engaging for both faculty and students with a relatively low barrier to adoption. The summer workshop and model modules are designed to assist faculty in integrating the modules into their traditional course material and delivery.

The adoption of this approach for non-majors has shown promising results in increasing student engagement and confidence in science literacy.

Program Goals

1. Implementation of DDP in physics, chemistry and biology courses, by a range of faculty. 2. Development of a set of modules that address topics at the intersection of traditional course content and current public policy, regional issues or cutting edge research; Sample modules can be adopted as complete units or serve a models for faculty to modify to fit their course or emerging questions. 3. Professional development for graduate students in active learning pedagogies.

Program Activities

1. Form curriculum teams – graduate students are critical component
2. Exposure to pedagogy
3. Facilitate the assessment of syllabus – course content
4. Brainstorm policy – course topic interface
5. Workshop modules
6. Form Community of Practice – share lessons learned

Adoption of this approach in large classrooms is made significantly easier if learning assistants are available to help facilitate group discussions. Graduate students have been key to the development and delivery of the DDP modules; they also assist with evaluation of student work.

Notes and Tips

1. It is critical to successful faculty buy-in that traditional course content is well integrated into the DDP modules. In this way, the modules are not seen as something that are an add-on and in competition with "covering the material". 2. We have found that the graduate students become the drivers for the reform and have been instrumental to the successful implementation.

Evidence of Success

The impact of implementation of the modules is being seen among students and faculty alike. Students are sharing stories of what they have learned, discussed and researched in a variety of contexts, bringing the experience into decisions they are making about their future. They have also reported to the faculty that at PSU we discuss the importance of societal impacts of scientific research. Faculty and graduate students teams have had lively discussions of possible DDP topics and several faculty have extended the implementation of DDP modules into non-majors and upper division science majors courses. The intersection of these course topics, policy questions and faculty research help students recognize the relevance and importance of the science they are learning. Survey data and focus group interviews are being analyzed, in addition to traditional metrics such as course grade data and retention.

Future Work

1. Continued honing of modules, both content topics and supporting readings and implementation details. 2. Analysis of assessment data from 2nd year implementation is still to be completed. 3. Implementation of pedagogy into junior level general education courses to address transfer students will be taking place in the coming year.

References and Accessory Materials

Weasel, L. & Finkel, L. Journal of College Science
Teaching, 45.4 (2016):38-45