Applying Knowledge

Author: Emily Farris (Texas Christian University).
To help students retain the reading and understand the material, I offer weekly assignments in my Introduction to American Politics classes. I often use a quiz format to help students understand the material, but sometimes I ask them to apply their knowledge to a real-world situation. (I would love to do this more but it is more time-consuming for both students and me to grade.
My students are studying media and public opinion this week. This MonkeyCage piece, co-authored with Heather Silber Mohamed, is a discussion of our research into the media’s portrayal of immigrants and immigration in images. Most news media portray immigrants as dangerous criminals. This has changed (at least for the moment) as Dr. Heather Silber Mohamed discusses our research into the media’s portrayal of immigrants and immigration in images. There are many misconceptions about immigration today, so I want it to be covered in my introductory course but don’t have the time. This is how I sneak policy topics into my Introduction to American Politics class. This assignment could be combined with another topic, such as gun control, environment, or abortion. The following assignment was created to help students understand public opinion and media.
First, I am asking students to take a look at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research iPoll databank. My university has an iPoll subscription, but you could also do something similar with Gallup and Pew. Students are instructed to examine Immigration under Topics At a Glance. I ask them to look at some of the questions about immigration and then to describe two questions to me. (going over the questions/answers, the results, and how it was done). I ask them to use something they have learned about public opinion/surveys in order to understand what these results say about public opinion regarding immigration.
Second, I ask students to use Google News to find a recent article about immigration that includes a photo of immigrants. I ask students to describe the image of immigrants and link it to my article.
These assignments can also be easily adapted for class.