In it he explained about variations in state authority, globalisation, institutional differences between political systems and the main characteristics of modes of decision-making. The reading for the seminar was taken from the chapter on the Policy Process by John Turner, which covered how policy in Britain is achieved, while giving examples such as the foot-and-mouth crisis, to illustrate this. The seminar concentrated mainly on decisions and non-decisions and the importance of policy-learning.
The final lecture in this first half of the term, Political Systems, was given by George Woodcock and was a new look at the study of political systems, he said “this study involves the empirical investigation of all aspects of politics in the form of a body of ordered knowledge”3 he then went on to explain what he meant by this. He covered Machievelli, Easton and Almond and used them to compare different styles of studying systems. There has, as yet been no seminar on this topic; however chapter 11 of the core text by B.
Axford provided the private reading, this covers the theories and models of political system study as well as looking at public opinion. The aforementioned text summarises what I have learnt so far in this module. In this module I have been taught in three different ways, through lectures, through seminar discussion and through private reading from the core text. I have experienced three different lecture styles so far on this course, the first by Richard Sakwa who used textural aids to deliver a lecture from which we took notes, aided by key phrases, which he wrote on the board.
The second style, used by Thomas Saalfeld, was a Powerpoint based lecture, where he projected slides and then explained in depth what he meant by each one. The third, delivered by George Woodcock was a straight dictation from text, which we were required to take notes from. To compare these styles I would have to say that for me personally I found the approach of R. Sakwa the most effective for me. I was able to take coherent detailed notes from his talk using the methods suggested by Stella Cottrell “Take notes of headings, questions, sub-points and references”4.
It is not that the other 2 lecture styles were not highly informative but that this one was delivered in the most effective way for my study and note-taking style. As to the seminars, although the group discussions were extremely enjoyable I did not always find them overly informative. Often the discussion leader would allow the debate to go off on a tangent, which would mean that we often wouldn’t cover the topics necessary to give us a properly rounded knowledge of the specific area of study.
The seminar on the Machinery of Government was on the whole informative, out of the 4 discussions so far, I believe that this is the one I learned the most from. Regarding reading, I would prepare for each seminar by reading the relevant chapter and making brief notes based on my research. All 4 chapters were interesting and enlightening, teaching me new things about each topic. If I had to pick a writing style, which worked best for me, I would have to say it was that of Richard Huggins. I liked the way he structured his chapters and the way in which he summarised his ideas.
Out of the three different teaching styles I feel that I learn best from lectures simply because I can take general notes and then after, stream them, in a neat coherent fashion in order to make for easy reading later on. My only criticism of the module thus far, would have to be they way in which all aspects of it have concentrated on a truly Western view of Politics, with a module entitled ‘Politics, Democracy and the State’ I would have expected a far more balanced outlook on the study.
I do understand that the majority of students at the university are from Western based countries, however some are not and it is unfair on them not offer a full range of study on the topics. I have found this a highly informative and educational module, I believe it will give me a sound introduction to my degree programme and I hope to continue finding it as such.
1 Lecture 1, R. Sakwa 1. 10. 03 2 R. Huggins 2002 3 Lecture 4, G. Woodcock 22. 10. 03 4 The Study Skills Handbook 2nd Edition – S. Cottrell (Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2003).