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SoTL as a Subfield for Political Science Graduate Programs

SoTL As A Subfield For Political Science Graduate Programs

Today the discipline of political science is faced with the challenges of demonstrating its public worth, finding employment for its doctoral students, and discovering a common language among its specialists (APSA 2014, 2015a, 2015b; Beltran et al. 2004; Brown-Dean 2015; Lupia 2014;  PS: Political Science & Politics 2015).[1] To address this situation, I recommend that political science departments create the subfield of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in their graduate programs. There are several definitions of the SoTL but all involve engagement with the existing knowledge of teaching and learning in one’s discipline and the dissemination of findings in both academic and public venues (Boyer 1997; Martin, Benjamin, Prosser, and Trigwell 1999; Cambridge 2001; Hutchings 2002). This new subfield would provide a bridge between scholarship and teaching within the discipline, better prepare its doctoral students for employment at undergraduate institutions, and show the public that they are committed to teaching and therefore provide a public good which is comprehensible to the public.

Currently almost all political science graduate programs neglect SoTL in the training of their doctoral students.[2] The result is that these programs neither prepare their students for academic positions where teaching is valued nor participate in disciplinary trends where more attention is being paid to SoTL. Furthermore, the emphasis of scholarship over teaching in political science graduate programs fails to persuade the public of political science’s value. The creation of the subfield SoTL will not only alleviate some these public criticisms but also bridge the gap between teaching and scholarship within the discipline.

Public Criticism

Political science graduate training today is almost exclusively focused on scholarship. This is to be expected, since graduate training transpires at research institutions whose mission centers on scholarship. Faculty at these places consequently are focused on scholarship for their own promotion, tenure, and prestige. The result is that political science graduate students are not only trained in programs that value scholarship but are also introduced into an academic culture where scholarship is preeminent.

This value emphasized on scholarship is understandable, as the core of any discipline is the creation and dissemination of knowledge among its academic communities and the public. Scholarship is what characterizes the most prestigious conferences, presses, and journals in the discipline; and the most renowned political scientists are recognized for their scholarship rather than for their teaching or service (Masuoka et al. 2007).[3] Scholarship also is required to teach well, with new theories and findings incorporated into a faculty’s teaching. In brief, scholarship is at the foundation of the political science discipline.

However, recent political pressure raises questions about the value of pursuing scholarship at the expense of teaching. For example, after proposing to cut $300 million to the university system, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker demanded that faculty teach more.[4] Legislation introduced in the Iowa’s legislature required faculty to teach at least one course per semester and be rated by student evaluations such that if “a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract.”[5] Finally, a legislative inquiry at the University of Missouri has brought public attention that one-half of faculty do not meet the system’s minimum teaching load requirement, prompting a prominent lawmaker to threaten to withhold state funding.[6]

This recent political pressure on faculty is different from previous attempts, where the criticism of faculty was a lack of scholarly productivity.[7] The focus on teaching has more public appeal, as faculty scholarship is often understood in utilitarian terms, such as in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or not understood at all. The recent limits of the National Science Foundation towards funding the discipline of political science in 2013 and the general lowering of funding for the social sciences are examples where the public fails to support these endeavors because political science scholarship is not understood as useful or perceived as politically biased.[8]

In an era of continual state budget cuts for higher education and greater competition among students in a globalized environment, universities and disciplines like political science need to articulate a reason for public support (APSA 2014; Brown-Dean 2015; Lupia 2014; Rust 2012; Trepanier 2013; U.S. Government Accountability Office 2014).[9] Furthermore, political science as a discipline has a unique relationship and obligation to the public because politics is by its very nature a public activity. At the very heart of its discipline, political scientists study what transpires in public and consequently need to explain to the public the profession and value of its discipline.

The problem is that most political science scholarship is seen neither as relevant nor understandable by the public; however, SoTL is not scholarship that the public can easily comprehend but also could support (Beltran et al. 2004). The adage of “publish or perish” needs to be replaced with “teach or perish” if political science programs wish to justify themselves to the public in a relevant manner. The American Political Science Association Task Force on Graduate Education calls for political scientists not to be simply political scientists but also “teachers of political science,” as society will always need skilled transmitters of knowledge (Beltran et al. 2004, 3).

Disciplinary Trends and Academic Employment

The American Political Science Association (APSA) has recognized these challenges and has directed the discipline to focus on SoTL. Prominent initiatives include the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, which is devoted to SoTL in contrast to the traditional (non-SoTL) scholarship-oriented APSA Conference; the publication of the journals of PS: Political Science & Politics and the Journal of Political Science Education, the latter which has recently been promoted to a journal of the discipline; the distinguished teaching awards to honor undergraduate and graduate teachers; and its committees on teaching and learning.[10] Political scientists also have played a role in promoting SoTL in the creation of the Political Science Education section within APSA. The result is that SoTL as a field of inquiry has become more prominent, especially as a younger cohort of scholars matures (Hamann et al. 2009).[11]

These initiatives not only make a public case for the need of political science but also shows within the discipline the importance and merit of SoTL. With APSA’s elevation of SoTL, political scientists who are interested in teaching are now able to demonstrate their relevance to colleagues who are concerned exclusively with traditional scholarship, a case that is particularly important when it comes to matters of tenure and promotion. This change in the discipline’s and a department’s culture is likely to lead political scientists to recognize that being an excellent teacher is inextricably linked with being an excellent scholar.[12] The significance of recognizing the importance of SoTL therefore is not only for the changing the public’s perception of political science but also changing views about SoTL within the discipline too.

Another reason for political scientists to promote SoTL is the number and types of jobs available. According to the APSA Graduate Placement Survey, the number of doctoral graduate students securing an academic position has declined from 63% in 2009-10 to 55.99% in 2013-14 (APSA 2015a).[13] The placement of doctoral graduate students in tenure-track position is even smaller. For the 2013-14 academic year in American Politics, 96 students (44%) were placed in a tenure-track position, while 45 (20.6%) were not; for Comparative Politics, the respective numbers for tenure-track to non-tenure track were 64 (26.8%) and 45 (18.8%); International Politics, 99 (34.1%) to 66 (22.8%); Methods, 5 (71.4%) to 0 (0%); Political Philosophy, 41 (28.3%) to 45 (31%); Public Administration, 8 (36.4%) to 3 (13.6%); Public Law, 8 (47.1%) to 5 (29.4%); and Public Policy, 2 (11.8%) to 2 (11.8%).[14]

Although there has been a decline in the number of academic positions for doctoral graduate students in the past five years – and fewer than half of those positions in tenure-track positions regardless of subfield (except Methods) – the posting of available positions in political science have varied. For assistant professorships, 489 were posted in 2002-3; 715 in 2007-8; 445 in 2009-10; and 452 in 2012-13.[15] The correlation between the state of the country’s economy and the number of postings is strong: the healthier the economy, the more positions posted; the worse the economy, the fewer positions posted. What one can conclude from these findings is even though the number of positions posted vary over time, fewer doctoral graduate students have secured academic positions, particularly in tenure-track jobs during the same period.

The latest study on the availability of academic positions at research or teaching institutions shows that two-thirds of new jobs in the United States are teaching ones (Ishiyama et al. 2010). One expects this trend to continue given the number and type of institutions of higher education in the United States. As of 2012, the latest figures available show that the United States has a total of 4,726 colleges and universities: 3,026 are 4-year institutions and 1,700 are 2-year institutions (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics 2013). Of the 3,026 4-year institutions, 297 can be classified as research institutions using the Carnegie Classification system of institutions of higher education, leaving 2,729 undergraduate institutions.[16] Even if the numbers are not exact, it is evident that there are more teaching institutions – non-doctoral undergraduate universities and colleges – than research ones.

Because there are more teaching institutions, the number of academic positions available are more likely to be located in these non-doctoral institutions; and because these institutions’ primary mission is teaching, faculty are expected to teach, to teach well, and to teach a variety of courses, even if they are outside one’s specialization. A possible exception to these type of institutions would be liberal arts colleges. However, the number of these institutions are small: the Council of Independent Colleges list only 630 institutions and the Council of Public Liberal Art Colleges list 29 in the United States.[17] Subtracting them from non-doctoral institutions, this would still leave 2,070 non-doctoral and non-community college institutions.

Unfortunately, the reality of the academic marketplace does not coincide with doctoral graduate students’ preferences. The APSA survey of graduate directors’ perception of students’ preferences for employment is that most students would want to have a tenure-track position at a research doctoral institution (64.9%), with only 27.8% favoring an undergraduate institution, 7.2% at any institution, and 2.8% at non-academic institutions (APSA 2015a). Unfortunately for these students, this preference runs contrary to the type of academic positions available.

Political Science Graduate Programs

This divergence between the economic, disciplinary, and political reality, on the one hand, and the aspirations of doctoral graduate students, on the other, is not the fault of students.[18] Political science graduate programs are to blamed. By not incorporating SoTL into their curriculum, political science graduate programs produce students who are prepared for traditional scholarship but not for an academic labor market and public pressure to demonstrate the discipline’s worth.[19] Despite discussion and evidence that graduate students are not prepared to teach, there has been little formalized training developed in political science graduate programs (Beltran et al. 2005; Euchner and Jewell 1989; Gaff et al. 2003; Ishiyama et al. 2010 and 2012; Rothgeb, Spadafore, and Burger 2007).

A review of the websites of the top ten political science graduate programs in the United States reveals that students are not introduced to SoTL; and if they are, it is only in the traditional manner of teaching assistants and instructorships.[20] With some minor variations, these political science graduate programs are organized in the same way: two years of coursework (with none about SoTL), a foreign language and quantitative method competency requirement, a general examination, and a dissertation. The general education usually requires students to know three areas of political science in the traditional fields of American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory.[21] In addition to these formal requirements, these programs also sponsor colloquia and workshops for graduate students that focus on research or professional development as defined by non-SoTL scholarship, e.g., dissertation topic, grant writing, the academic labor market.

The only place for teaching in these programs is for students to be eligible to teach sections in introductory courses, assist undergraduate sessions, or partake in tutorial programs. Harvard is the most specific in how students should allot their time to teaching: third-year students should devote two-fifth of their time to teaching and the rest on the dissertation; fourth-year students and above should devote most of their time to work on their dissertation or “a combination of teaching and research.”[22] Of the 122 political science doctoral programs, only 41 had a graduate-level course on teaching political science, and only 28 of these programs required students to enroll in the course (Ishiyama et al. 2010).

From the departments’ websites, it is not clear how the graduate student teaching is supervised and evaluated, but one suspects that the mentorship of students into teaching is dependent upon the faculty advisor and the relationship he or she has with the student (Kuehl et al. 2016). If a faculty member is attentive to his or her graduate student, concerned about teaching, and knows about the literature of SoTL, then the student is likely to be well-prepared as a teacher. But if a faculty member lacks any one of the above-mentioned factors, then the student will have to devise for himself or herself how to teach well. Given that the incentives in political science graduate programs are for students to spend time on non-SoTL scholarship, it is unlikely students will spend any more time than needed to teach.

It is also not clear whether graduate students teach because of it is part of their professional development, personal income, an inexpensive way for programs to manage their budgets, or a combination of all these reasons. Teaching may be part of a graduate student’s financial aid package and therefore they teach because they need the income. Alternatively, graduate students may teach to supplement their income not only in their own programs but also be employed as adjuncts at other universities. Having graduate students teach – whether within one’ s own program, as adjuncts elsewhere, or online – is an inexpensive, and perhaps exploitive, way for programs and universities to meet the demands of undergraduate teaching. The income that undergraduate students bring to programs are compensate with inexpensive and inexperienced graduate students, while faculty members are free to pursue traditional scholarship and thereby justify their high costs to a department.

Like their counterparts in the United States, the top political science programs in the world also are organized in similar fashion but are even more focused on traditional research than their American counterparts.[23] Oxford, Cambridge, Science Po Paris, and Australian National University make no references to SoTL for their doctoral students: only the London School of Economics states that there are opportunities for doctoral students to teach undergraduate courses.[24] The emphasis on research at the expense of teaching is understandable at these programs because the time to complete a doctorate is three years, a shorter period when compared to American programs. The result is that these programs emphasize non-SoTL scholarship even more so than American programs, with graduate students encouraged to have publications in peer-reviewed journals before they defend their doctorate (Mair 2009; Steuriuc, 2009; for a contrary view, see Pleschová 2009).

The Case for SoTL and Teaching

Thus, there is a discrepancy between the doctoral training of political science programs and the number and type of academic positions available, the direction of the discipline, and the political pressures of governments on public universities. Confronted with these challenges, political science graduate programs must adapt in order to provide realistic opportunities for employment for its graduate students, remain current with the latest trends in the discipline, and demonstrate its relevance to the public. One way political science graduate programs could meet these challenges is to create a new subfield of SoTL.[25]

By adding this new subfield into their graduate program, political science departments would be creating opportunities and incentives for students to be eligible for employment not only at undergraduate institutions but also for positions in the education industry, e.g., secondary schools; local, state, and the federal government; textbook publishing companies; non-profit educational organizations and foundations. For those students who secure academic positions, they will be aware of the teaching demands and expectations of their institutions, which in turn will help them on their career paths of tenure and promotion (Ishiyama et al. 2014). And once these students become established professors at their institutions, they can have influence on the future teaching demands and expectations of their own schools.

The new subfield of SoTL also will show students the connection between scholarship and teaching, which ultimately may deepen the affinity between these activities in the discipline.[26] Instead of conceiving each of these activities as isolated from each other, students will be able to make the connections between them, leading them to make new scholarly contributions. By creating this subfield, the culture within the discipline and departments will change where SoTL becomes as valued as much as traditional scholarship.

Although academics recognize the foundational role that traditional scholarship plays in any discipline, this fact is not evident to the public. Academics can continue to make the case about the importance of traditional scholarship or how low-teaching loads make their universities more competitive to recruit and retain faculty, but these arguments seem to have little effect on changing public perception or the minds of state legislators. Instead, political scientists could make the public case that SoTL needs to be institutionalized so that teaching becomes more effective rather than just having more of it. It is not necessarily evident that having professors teach more would make them better teachers and students better learners. But the creation of a subfield of SoTL would enable faculty to identify the best practices and methods for effective teaching for particular disciplines. Academics therefore would concede to public demands that teaching needs to have a more central place in the university’s mission but would qualify that criticism that it is effective, not just more, teaching that is required.

Because of APSA’s initiatives, there already are numerous faculty who do research in SoTL and publish in places like Journal of Political Science of Education. Because the community and literature in SoTL is established and continues to grow, there is fertile ground to create SoTL as a subfield. Having said that, the creation and implementation of this subfield will vary from department to department. It is not clear whether a top-down or organic approach would be best. Another question is the role of the College of Education (COE) with their pedagogical programs: should COE and political science programs work together or remain apart? Finally, institutional questions, like accreditation, need to be investigated if the creation of a subfield of SoTL would any negative effect upon a university’s standing.

What would a subfield actually look like in a political science graduate program? In the following section I outline the contents of this subfield and its place in a political science graduate program. With the understanding that this proposal is to start a conversation about what a subfield of SoTL would look like rather than claim it is definitive, I have designed one that is board as possible so it could be used as a template, allowing flexibility among programs to tailor it for their specific needs.

The Subfield of SoTL

Before delving into the details of what a subfield in SoTL would look like in a political science graduate program, it is also worthwhile to consider other changes that could emphasize teaching. For example, political science graduate programs could require a course on SoTL, as departments demand that their students complete a course in methodology. Such a course could examine topics like syllabus and assignment design, student assessment, classroom management and presence, innovative teaching practices, technology and online learning. The introduction to the literature of these subjects as well as prompting students to think about teaching will likely make them better teachers.

In addition to a mandatory course on SoTL, political science programs could institutionalize workshops and mentorship programs for graduate students who teach for their department. Although some political science graduate programs have these features, they could be better managed and evaluated if a faculty member is appointed as director of teaching, a position similar to graduate director or chair. By appointing a faculty member to oversee teaching for all graduate students, political science programs can systematically manage and evaluate the effectiveness of these students’ teaching. It also introduces students into a culture where teaching is valued in their programs and that these activities are taken seriously by the department.

Besides the mandatory SoTL course and appointment of a teaching director, the creation of a subfield of SoTL would give teaching a more prominent place in political science graduate programs and the discipline. This subfield should be optional for students as part of their general examination, for making it mandatory might create a backlash among faculty and resentment among students. Political science graduate programs do not currently mandate in which subfields students must specialize and changing this practice might create more problems than it would solve.

Conceding that there are several ways to organize the subfield of SoTL, I propose at least four main areas to be covered: 1) political science content; 2) SoTL content; 3) public policy of education; and 4) a practicum of teaching. With respect to the first area, students should be familiar with all the traditional subfields of political science – American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory – and Methods. Programs could decide whether to add to this required list, such as Public Policy or Public Law, or even allow students to develop an innovative curriculum in a specialist’s subject, something that new faculty are often asked to do.

Students would need to know the major authors, themes, and developments in these subjects but not to the extent that a student who specializes in them would. In other words, students would have to demonstrate a familiarity with these subfields rather than a competency of them. One way to think about the difference between familiarity and competency is the difference in expectations of knowledge between a masters and doctoral student. They would be given an abbreviated reading list of the required subfields and could demonstrate their familiarity in a variety of ways: a general examination, a syllabus design requirement, how one can communicate key ideas to the public.[27] Unlike SoTL content, which is the second area for students wishing to specialize in SoTL as a subfield, a familiarity with political science content prepares doctoral students to be able to teach a variety of courses well, which is important for students for several reasons.

First, it is likely that most academic positions are at undergraduate institutions and these positions require faculty members to teach a broad range of topics, even those outside of their areas of specialization. Instead of learning “on the fly,” these doctoral students will already be prepared to teach a wide range of subjects in political science. Second, by learning the traditional subfields in political science, students will be able to make the connections among them both in teaching and scholarship. With enough students trained this way, communication about the nature and direction of the discipline will be a common endeavor rather than fragmented one. Finally, students familiar with the traditional subfields will likely be better advocates for their departments and universities in public because such training compels them to speak in a language that is accessible. By contrast, the specialist often does not make the best advocate for their program because he or she is beholden to a jargon-laden vocabulary and narrow academic perspective.

The second aspect of the subfield is SoTL content, the research and scholarship of such subjects like syllabus and assignment design, student assessment, civic engagement and service learning, methodologies for teaching and learning. Although graduate students will have been introduced to these topics in the mandatory SoTL course, they could also specialize in one of these topics for their dissertation. What aspects of the literature of SoTL that will be stressed will vary from department to department, just as in the case in non-SoTL scholarship with programs differing among one another in certain expertise and strengths.

The third aspect of the subfield of SoTL is the public policy of education: a review of the literature on this topic at the local, state, and federal level. The study of this subject is essential for students who want to specialize in SoTL because it places both political science content and SoTL issues in a public context. Students will not only be able to make connections among the disparate actors in public education, but they also will be able to demonstrate how their scholarship is directly tied to public concerns, thereby illuminating the relevance of the discipline.

The final aspect of the subfield of SoTL is a practicum of teaching. In their teaching, students should be able to see how the practice of teaching is part of the scholarship of teaching and learning. This could be accomplished as a report, a dissertation chapter, or even be the dissertation itself. As far as to when students should be allowed to teach and how they are supervised, this should be left to individual political science programs until more systematic data is collected and evaluated.[28]

The dissertation and its defense is the conclusion of a student’s doctoral education. With the subfield of SoTL as a new field, students can select a wide range of topics. Unlike most political science dissertations, ones from the subfield of SoTL will be able to speak directly to the public about the value of political science, provide connections between scholarship and teaching, and demonstrate to search committees that the candidate is knowledgeable about teaching.[29]


One of the practical questions is how this proposal can be implemented and institutionalized in political science graduate programs. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that the discipline is determined by its elite graduate programs, which not only emphasize traditional scholarship but also employ a new generation of political scientists among these very same institutions.[30] The result is an academic culture that continues to replicate itself, stressing the exclusive value of non-SoTL scholarship.

Thus, the implementation of this subfield must be gradual. For instance, political science graduate programs could strongly encourage an SoTL chapter or appendix for every dissertation, whether it is a class-room based experience or engaging the research and scholarship of SoTL. By having students write only a chapter or appendix on SoTL instead of being the subject of their entire dissertation, political science graduate programs would allow these students to secure academic employment rather than be perceived as not conducting rigorous scholarship and thereby not seriously be considered in the job market. Likewise, the subfield of SoTL could be the second or third field rather than the primary one in a student’s general examination.

One possible path to change the discipline’s culture is to have non-elite political science doctoral programs create a subfield of SoTL for their own programs. To a certain extent, this makes sense for these programs as they typically place their doctoral students at undergraduate teaching institutions. But by having only non-elite political science doctoral programs offer a subfield in SoTL, it could formalize a two-tier system between elite (traditional scholarship only) and non-elite (SoTL scholarship) programs. This division between political science programs would not only be detrimental to a sense of collaboration, cooperation, and community among political scientists in the discipline, but it also could reinforce how reputational prestige is currently evaluated.

A better approach is to have the elite political science doctoral programs in coordination with the discipline as represented by APSA to implement and institutionalize a subfield of SoTL.[31] This would demonstrate to the public, political science graduate programs, and doctoral students that SoTL is held in equal esteem as non-SoTL scholarship. Such a feat would require great effort and patience; however, such an endeavor would be worthwhile to better prepare political science students for employment, show the public relevance of political science, and build bridges between scholarship and teaching. Simply put, it is the long-term interest of these programs and the discipline to do this, although it remains to be seen whether there is leadership to recognize and response to these challenges.



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[1] A previous version of this article was  was presented at the 2016 American Political Science Teaching and Learning Conference. I want to thank the participants in the “Teaching How to Teach” track for their constructive criticism and helpful comments as well as the anonymous referees of this article.

[2] The neglect of teaching among political science graduate programs, especially among elites one, is discussed further in this paper’s section, “Political Science Graduate Programs.”

[3] This article lists the top political scientists in five-year cohorts from 1940-1999, by subfield c. 2002, and women. All the political scientists listed are known for their scholarship.

[4] “Wisconsin Governor: Faculty Should Teach More Classes” 2015.

[5] “Iowa Bill Sparks Faculty Ire” 2015.

[6] “Too Many Teaching Waivers?” 2015

[7] For example, the University of Texas at Austin was criticized in Rick O’Donnell’s report, “Higher Education’s Faculty Productivity Gap: The Cost to Students, Parents & Taxpayers.” Marc Musick, a sociology professor and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts, subsequently issued its own report to repudiate O’Donnell’s findings: “An Analysis of Faculty Instructional and Grant-based Productivity at the University of Texas at Austin” (Jaschik 2011).

[8] Jaschik 2015 and 2013.

[9] 25 Years of Declining State Support for Public Colleges” 2014. In addition to establishing a task force to issue a report on improving the public perception of political science’s value, APSA also published a special journal issue on this topic in PS: Political Science & Politics. However, only one article addresses teaching as a way “to better communicate Political Science’s public value” (Smith 2015).

[10] APSA 2015c.

[11] APSA 2015d.

[12] Examples of this approach are Boyer (1997) and McKinney (2007.

[13] 13.62% secured post-doctorates; 9.91% non-academic positions; and 17.07% were not placed at all. The APSA 2014-15 graduate placement survey (2015b) shows that these trends continue in academic employment in political science: 51.3% secured academic positions; 17% post-doctorates; 12.1% non-academic; 16.8% not placed.

[14] The 2014-15 Graduate Placement Survey: Preliminary Results shows that these trends continue in academic employment in political science with the exception that there were more placements in Comparative Politics than American Politics.

[15] Positions in American Politics, International Relations, and Comparative Politics were consistently the most posted during this period.

[16] Research institutions as categorized by Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and include RU/VH (very high research activity), RU/H (high research activity), and DRU (doctoral/research universities). Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education n.d.

[17] Council of Independent Colleges n.d.; Council of Public Liberal Art Colleges n.d.

[18] For more about the problems with graduate education, refer to Cassuto, 2015.

[19] For more about the state of teaching in political science graduate programs, refer to Jones and Woodward, 2016; Kuehl et al. 2016.

[20] I use the U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of political science graduate programs. Although some may disagree with its methodology, I suspect the results comport with most political scientists’ assessments of these programs: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Columbia, MIT, University of San Diego, Duke, and University of California at Los Angeles. “Top Political Science Programs” n.d.

[21] Some programs also include Methodology; Formal Political Theory; Political Economy; Public Policy; Political Psychology; Security Studies; Gender and Politics; Law, Courts, and Politics; Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.

[22] “Graduate Program: Requirements for Students admitted to Fall 2010 or Later” n.d.

[23] I use the QS World University Ranking of 2015 for the top political science graduate programs in the world. As stated before, although some may disagree with its methodology, I suspect the results comport with most political scientists’ assessments of these programs: Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, LSE, Science Po Paris, Cambridge, Australian National University, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and John Hopkins. “QS Top Universities” n.d. For more about the differences and similarities between North American and European doctoral graduate programs, refer to Mény 2010 and Ishiyama 2010.

[24] Cambridge University’s website states that there are teaching fellows, in addition to the full-time faculty; however, it is not clear who these teaching fellows are, i.e., doctoral students, post-doctoral students, visiting professors, etc. “Department of Politics and International Studies.” n.d. Cambridge University.

[25]  Serve et al. (2013) even suggest creating a separate degree, doctorate of arts, which focuses on SoTL. This proposal incorporates this idea as part of a doctoral student’s comprehensive examination.

[26] Boyer (1997) is an advocate of this approach of combing scholarship and teaching with his typology of the scholarship of discovery, integration, teaching and learning, and application.

[27] The requirement of graduate students having familiarity with all the traditional subfields in political science is one the recommendations that the 2004 APSA Task Force Committee on Graduate Education: “a serious graduate education includes a broadly informed perspective on the discipline” (p. 4).

[28] Some innovative mentoring systems for teacher training and greater evaluation and supervision of graduate instructors are noted by Ishiyama (2010) at Miami University (Ohio) and Baylor University, innovations which had not placed a strain on the resources of faculty time.

[29] Craig (2014) reviews the literature on teaching and learning in political science and the persistent problem of identifying the aspects that distinguishes political science from other disciplines. By creating a subfield of SoTL, political scientists can address this and other problems in the field.

[30] This claim seems to comport with most political scientists’ perceptions in the discipline, although data to support this claim in political science is difficult to determine. For academic studies about this phenomenon within academia in general, refer to Warner 2015.

[31] The role of professional associations, like APSA, is crucial for determining the expectations and requirements of academic employment and prestige in the discipline (Gaff 2003).


This was originally published with the same title in Journal of Political Science Education 2 (2017): 138-51.

Lee TrepanierLee Trepanier

Lee Trepanier

Lee Trepanier is a Professor of Political Science at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He is author and editor of several books and also is the editor of VoegelinView (2016-present) and editor of Lexington Books series Politics, Literature, and Film (2013-present).

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