Pinning Down the Constitution: An Interactive Way to Teach Congress's Power, Federalism, and Constitutional Interpretation

22 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2013

Date Written: January 24, 2013

Abstract

“Pin-the-Tail- on-the-Constitution” is a mini-simulation devolved to harness the benefits of problem-based learning while pushing past the barriers that typically prevent implementation of active learning. This learning activity has been conducted in twenty-three classes over the past four years. The simulation teaches multiple themes commonly included in a variety of courses on American politics such as federalism, congressional powers, the role of the federal courts, and the commerce clause. There are no complicated roles for students to learn or adopt, and the activity can be completed in less than a full class session even if little pre-activity preparation time is provided. This limited prep provides necessary time for other teaching and logistical requirements during the class session while providing ample time for debriefing and set up for the activity. This paper (1) sufficiently describes the simulation to allow immediate adoption by instructors teaching a variety of American politics courses; (2) explains the process of devising a mini-simulation, thus providing a narrative to help instructors devise their own mini-simulations; and (3) reports on student survey data that indicates a dramatic increase in student knowledge and understanding from participation in this activity.

Keywords: Simulations, Role-Plays, Education, Pedagogy

Suggested Citation

Emenaker, Ryan, Pinning Down the Constitution: An Interactive Way to Teach Congress's Power, Federalism, and Constitutional Interpretation (January 24, 2013). 2013 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2206676 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2206676

Ryan Emenaker (Contact Author)

College of the Redwoods ( email )

7351 Tompkins Hill Rd
Eureka, CA 95521
United States

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