Basic Course 4
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Group Puzzle
Role Play




Basic Course 4: Methods for Activating Lessons in Politics

An important selection criteria for methods is formed by the question concerning to what extent they contribute to the achievement of the aims of political education, as the figure shows.  

The Aims of Political Education

Political education communicates basic knowledge on politics and attempts to kindle interest in politics. The creates the framework for more demanding aims, and above all the ability towards independent analysis and forming judgements. Over and above it counts as one of the tasks that cater for attaining skills and practicing them, these being required by active citizens in a democracy (partaking in discussions, using media, holding speeches etc.).

Skills in
democracy need to be practiced...

The special, activating skills come into play here which we are concerned with in this basic course. They have the advantage of also corresponding to the more demanding, superordinate aims of political education. They do not just communicate knowledge - which they do in an extraordinarily sustainable manner -, do not just allow for understanding - also and specifically in relation to complex circumstances -, they also serve for practicing the skills in democracy just spoken about.

... But only as Simulation

It must also be noted as a limitation that it is only possible to practice these skills in a more or less "artificial" manner within the framework of the methods presented here. He who takes a particular position in a pro-contra debate in the classroom, does this is a very special, limited context. Merely the project method can help to reduce the distance to "real life", whereas, for instance, business games and role-playing always remain simulations. For this reason it is important that democracy at school does not just communicate various methods, but is also practiced in reality. Basic Course 5 deals with this dimension.


What remains fact is that action-oriented methods, of which a selection will be presented within the framework of this course, demonstrate clear and considerable advantages. However these advantages stand in contrast to problems. What generally applies is that these methods require great commitment on the part of the teacher, since their preparation takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Courage is also required on addition, because each business game and debate can fail. A further problem is formed by the determining factors and requirements (for instance, the timetable). It is often very difficult to harmonise projects and role-play with these requirements. Finally attention needs to be drawn to the fact that the methods presented here require a considerable amount of time.

The following methods are presented on other pages:


Debate: Peaceful solutions to disputes though the exchange of arguments forms the heart of democracy. This can be practiced in debate...


Group Puzzle: The group puzzle is a particularly clever form of group work, which turns the pupil into the teacher...


Business Games and Role-Playing: Simulation games can be a very effective means of communicating knowledge sustainably. Skills in democracy are attained at the same time...


Project: The project methods reduce the distance between the school and "real life". Pupils learn to plan independently and learn skills for acting...


Betzavta: This method developed in Israel selects a completely different and very interesting approach to learning democracy...

... continue to Basic Course 5
: Democracy at School

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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SubjectsHuman Rights  I  Examples  I  Democracy  I  Parties  I  Europe  I  Globalisation  I  United Nations  I  Sustainability

Methods:    Teaching Politics    II    Peace Education    II    Methods


This online service on the subject of political education was developed by agora-wissen, the Stuttgart-based Gesellschaft für Wissensvermittlung über neue Medien und politische Bildung (GbR) (Partnership for the Exchange of Information Using New Media and Political Education). Please contact us with your questions or comments. Translation from German into English by twigg's Übersetzung deutsch-englisch.