Methods and Challenges in Teaching Political Theory

June 19, 2023
University of York

University of York
United Kingdom

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Political theory has been well-served by series of systematic reflections on the nature of its discipline and the academic research it undertakes. By contrast, what has received considerably less reflection is the pedagogy of political theory. Beyond a number of isolated publications, typically placed within broader reflections on the pedagogy of politics, few landmark publications exist on the teaching of political theory. While insights from literatures on the pedagogy of politics and philosophy as cognate disciplines serve to a certain degree reflection on the teaching of political theory, this one day workshop aims to examine if there are discrete or relatively independent considerations in the teaching of political theory.

The workshop aims to catalyse a disciplinary discussion about how political theory should be and is best taught, guided by the following issues and questions:

  1. Decolonisation and Diversification

In recent years within the European and North American academies, increasing attention has been given to conceptual questions regarding the teaching of political theory. With an emphasis on decolonising and diversifying the curriculum, steps have been taken by teachers of political theory to re-canonise syllabi in the history of political thought and re-conceptualise what should count among the fundamental issues worthy of theoretical reflection in the study of politics. What remains underexplored in this development is if reconceptualising what counts as political theory necessitates methodological consideration about how political theory should be taught.

  1. The Vocation of Teaching Political Theory

In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere, higher education has become increasingly reliant upon student recruitment for finance. Associated with this there has been a proliferation of staff, notably at junior levels, employed in teaching-focused roles. The workshop seeks to reflect upon these developments to inform thinking about the vocation of political theory and its pedagogy. What are the challenges in developing an academic career in such a role and how do teachers develop and impart their expertise in their role?

  1. Challenges in Teaching Political Theory to Diverse Student Bodies

There are a range of challenges in teaching political theory to specific student bodies. These include, for instance: (i) the teaching of theory both as a philosophical or historical subject to students of political science, as is common in many UK institutions, (ii) if there are specific challenges in teaching theory to specific demographics such as first generation students, non-native speaking students or students of particular ethnic or class profiles, and (iii) the challenges of teaching to students starting their degrees compared with those at later stages of study, or undergraduate versus postgraduate teaching.

  1. Challenges in Teaching Political Theory as a Subject

Are there common challenges in teaching all varieties of political theory, for example, analytical political philosophy in comparison to the history of political thought, or specific concerns about how theory should be taught in interdisciplinary contexts, for instance, in its relationship to political science, public policy, philosophy and history? Or, what challenges are there in teaching morally controversial subjects or authors? 

  1. The Craft of Teaching Political Theory

Lastly, as little scholarship has been developed on the pedagogy of political theory, teachers of the discipline work largely within an intellectual vacuum beyond informal discussions with colleagues. Such discussions are often rich with insights and analyses which could illuminate pedagogical practice. As such, there is a wealth of craft that is due articulation, and indeed recognition, which this workshop aims to provide.

We encourage papers or talks on the above or related issues applied to political theory
understood as a broad discipline including the teaching of analytical political philosophy,
contemporary political theory, the history of political thought and the history of ideas, critical
theory and related disciplines.We particularly encourage submissions from academics on teaching-type contracts.

We aim to see if there is wider interest in establishing a network in teaching political
theory to support career development, organise events and develop disciplinary scholarship
– with the workshop’s proceedings forming an initial publication.

In summary format, we invite papers and talks on topics including, but not limited to:

Appropriate methods for teaching a diversified canon or curriculum
Teaching of political theory in the context of current UK or wider higher education
The methodological challenges of teaching theory to specific cohorts of students (e.g.
first generation; particular ethnic or class profiles; stages of degree progression)
Commonalities and differences in teaching different varieties of political theory  
The relationship between teaching political theory and political science and/or philosophy and/or other disciplines
The challenges of teaching political theory on different degree pathways (e.g. political science, philosophy, history or other degrees)
The history of pedagogy of political theory
Reflections on how teachers of political theory have developed their craft
Innovations in one’s teaching craft
Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to both:
[email protected]
[email protected]
The deadline is the 6 March 2023

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