Teaching political theory and encouraging students to critically assess and evaluate democratic institutions, decision-making procedures and policy outcomes requires appropriate seminar formats and settings that enable and facilitate self-motivated learning and engaged seminar discussions. One of my main goals in teaching is to create such settings by implementing project-based learning or the joint exercise of thought experiments in seminar sessions (see Fleuß 2018). My pedagogical approach relies on experiential learning-approaches and integrates elements of problem-oriented and project-based learning to motivate learners "to persist at authentic problems, meld prior knowledge and thinking strategies to apply to real-world problems” (Blumenfeld et al., 1991; see Kolb & Kolb, 2005).
My courses on Human Rights, Discourse Ethics, and Social Contract Theories aim at a careful and comprehensive analysis of normative standards for individual and normative decision-making (procedures). For example, theories of human rights tend to formulate criteria for the legitimacy of civil disobedience, state redistribution politics or humanitarian interventions. This implies that the – often fairly abstract – debates led by political theorists or philosophers concern ethical matters and political decisions that students and citizens are confronted with on a daily basis. My courses address such implications of abstract normative debates for discussions of concrete political issues, e.g., matters of fair resource allocation or humanitarian interventions. In a recent co-teaching project at the University of Dar es Salaam, I discussed conceptualisations of political equality and gender equality and their implications for current political debates with Tanzanian philosophy-students.
Measurements of nation states’ democratic quality are a major subject area of comparative research in political science, for example in studying transitions from authoritarianism to democracy and vice versa. Developing a valid measurement of democratic quality, however, poses serious challenges: Democracy indices must be based on theoretically reflected conceptualisations of democracy, provide a methodologically sound deduction of indicators and an appropriate aggregation rule for building the democracy-index. These issues do not only pose challenges for researchers, but also pose educational-didactical challenges: Seminars on measuring democratic quality must address considerations from democratic theory, empirical methods, and applied comparative research. Seminars on measurements of democracy therefore also provide the opportunity to consider the systematic relationships between theoretical, methodological, and empirical considerations in political science. To address the heterogeneous didactical challenges, I developed a 'modular toolkit' for courses on measuring democracy (Fleuss 2019, APSA Workshop).