Teaching Students How to Think, not What to Think: Pedagogy and Political Psychology


  • Gabriel Velez
  • Séamus A. Power


Academia is often critiqued as an “ivory tower” where research, thinking, and teaching are isolated from the complexity and everyday experience of so many people. As instructors of political and other psychology courses, we strive to break down these barriers and engage with the dynamic and nuanced nature of phenomena as situated in lived social and political contexts. In this report, we unpack and detail how we strive to achieve this goal by expanding on Plous’ articulation of action teaching (2012). We first define our pedagogical focus on active engagement, critical thinking, and staying on the move between multiple perspectives. We then provide specific examples of how we enact our philosophy in activities and assessment. We end by articulating how this approach to teaching in social and political psychology can be understood as furthering not only our students’ intellectual growth as psychologists, but also their development as democratic citizens. In doing so, we argue that action teaching not only involves course activities directly engaging with social issues, but also provides students with a scaffold to actually do so in a way that is attentive to the complexity, pluralism, and dynamism of social and political issues.