Department Learning Objectives

The Cal Poly Political Science Department prepares students to become informed active citizens. Undergraduate and graduate programs emphasize the comprehension of political thinking, the application of communication and analytical skills, and the understanding of cultural diversity.

The Political Science Department emphasizes these learning objectives:

Learning Objective 1

To Increase knowledge of the political science discipline; its principal theoretical frameworks and applications, conceptual vocabulary, and methods of inquiry; its major subfields of study; and its interrelationships with the other social science fields.

Achieved by: Students are required to take “Political Inquiry” (POLS 180), which introduces them to the disciplines, concepts, and scientific methods of political science. Majors take 17 units of elective coursework among the various subfields of the discipline and they have a specific concentration composed of 28 units of coursework in the major and disciplinary cognates. Students are required to take one course in "Research Design" (POLS 359) and one course in "Quantitative Methodology."

Learning Objective 2

To increase understanding of basic facts and concepts about the American political system, including its history, philosophical, constitutional and legal foundations, leading political values and ideas, governing institutions, and policymaking processes.

Achieved by: Students are required to take specific courses in American government, public law, and political theory. Additionally, students fulfill their major requirements by taking a variety of courses that address the functions and processes of government and politics at the international, national, and state levels.

Learning Objective 3

To increase knowledge of diverse political systems around the world, including empirical area-based knowledge; broader theoretical understanding of different political systems, institutions and processes; and the changing domestic and global contexts within which they operate.

Achieved by: Students are required to take “International Relations” (POLS 225) and “Introduction to Comparative Politics” (POLS 229). Students may also elect to declare the Global Politics concentration. A number of students participate in the Model United Nations program where they study and discuss matters of international importance, and role-play with groups from other institutions and selected countries in mock U.N. sessions.

Learning Objective 4

To increase knowledge of the history of classical and modern political thought; of the fundamental values and ethical issues contested in politics over time; and of alternative moral and ethical frameworks for interpreting and evaluating contemporary political discourses.

Achieved by: Students are required to take “Basic Concepts of Political Thought” (POLS 230), which addresses the enduring political theories and questions of political life and values. Majors are exposed to many of these issues in the required courses they take in philosophy, and they may opt to take additional political science courses that emphasize modern and American political thought. In all POLS courses, basic questions of equality, liberty, power, and ethics are addressed, since they are fundamental to any understanding of political behavior.

Learning Objective 5

To increase recognition of the major problems, the leading policies, and the legal issues confronting contemporary political systems, particularly in the U.S.

Achieved by: These issues are addressed in required and elective courses taken by political science majors. Other specific courses focus on current events and crises, and on significant problems that pose controversy in how governments should respond to them.

Learning Objective 6

To increase acquisition of citizenship skills, ethical values, and the ability to understand and appreciate human diversity; and to engage in community life as active citizens.

Achieved by: Each POLS course teaches these skills as they are central to understanding politics and political behavior in our past and current environment. Students also may participate in internships at the local, state and national levels of government in order to acquire and apply these skills.

Learning Objective 7

To increase understanding of political science research and analytical skills, including the ability to think critically; to construct logical arguments; to collect, analyze, and interpret evidence and data; and to formulate reasoned conclusions.

Achieved by: Required courses in political science, such as “Political Inquiry” (POLS 180), “Political Thought” (POLS 230), "Research Design" (POLS 359) and "Quantitative Methodology" ensure students have the opportunity to apply their research skills in their senior projects (POLS 461/462). Writing is an integral aspect of all POLS courses—students demonstrate their communication, research, and analytical skills in these assignments and in their senior projects.

Learning Objective 8

To increase development of writing skills through research papers, essay exams, senior projects in political science topics, and collaborative research/writing opportunities with faculty.

Achieved by: As indicated above, undergraduate students engage in a variety of analytical assignments designed to strengthen their critical thinking skills, their communication abilities, and their problem-solving ingenuity in required and elective coursework. Faculty members have paired with selected students and are actively involved in collaborative research that has resulted in published articles and in presentations at professional meetings.

Learning Objective 9

To provide opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students to link theory and practice and to apply political science knowledge and skills to actual problem-solving and community service.

Achieved by: Required and elective courses, senior seminar, senior project, collaborative student-faculty research, internship opportunities, and service learning.

Learning Objective 10

To increase awareness of career options available with an undergraduate degree in political science; its utility in the public and private sectors; and its value as entry into a range of graduate programs, teaching positions, and legal education.

Achieved by: Discussions in courses (such as the senior seminar) disseminate information on career opportunities for political science majors. Students also have the opportunity to participate in intensive government and legal internships for course credit. The Department's Political Science Club offers special sessions on employment opportunities. The Department maintains an updated list of employment opportunities in the political arena (local, state, national, international) on the Department website. Because responses to the Department's alumni newsletter evidence the versatility that political science graduates have with their degrees, alumni are engaged in discussions with students about the options provided by a B.A. in Political Science. 

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