Saint-Louis University - Bruxelles

ESPO1162 - Political science

Credits : 5

Lecturer :
Teaching assistant :
Mode of delivery :
Face-to-face , first term, 30 hours of theory.

Timetable :
First term
Monday from 10:45 to 12:45 at 43 Botanique 1

Language of instruction :

Learning outcomes :
This is an introductory class. Its aim is to introduce the students to the understanding of contemporary political phenomena through the study of a few basic analytical frameworks. The lecture will look into some foundational concepts and typologies in political science, as well as some authoritative explanatory theories.
By the end of the lectures, the students are expected to be familiar enough with those theories to apply them to concrete situations. During the exam (see ‘assessment methods'), the students will be asked to use those key theoretical points to analyse some contemporary political phenomena that will not have been discussed during the lectures.

Prerequisites :

Co-requisites :

Course contents :
The lectures are divided into four main sections, each corresponding to a classic concept in contemporary political science: Politics, Power, State, and Democracy. In the analysis of each concept, and the reality it captures, we intend to shed a light on what is peculiar to political phenomena (as specific social phenomena) and on what stands out in contemporary Western political phenomena, compared to other geopolitical contexts or other periods of history.
The lectures also aim to highlight the relevance of fundamental concepts of political science, such as international organization, political party, nation, etc. It will tackle a few authoritative analytical theories of contemporary political science.
Last but not least, the lectures wish to trigger some critical thinking on current political issues and to invite students to consider the role played by the framing and the story-telling of social issues, the lingering tension between popular sovereignty and the rule of law in modern political regimes, the peculiarities of Belgium's political system and its institutional future…
Throughout the lectures, an effort will be made to illustrate the key theoretical points with some examples drawn from the most recent news cycle.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods :
The class of ‘Political Science' is worth 5 ECTS. 3 ECTS correspond to workload associated with attending and studying the content of the ex cathedra lectures (1). The remaining 2 ECTS are associated with a ‘self-teaching activity', that is to say some work the students have to do by themselves (2).
Though the lectures are given ex cathedra, moreover to a large audience, the class aims to be as interactive as possible.
During the lectures, and within some reasonable time limits, students are encouraged to ask clarificatory questions or to express their opinion regarding the latest theoretical developments presented by the professor. The professor will direct some questions at the students to invite them to share their knowledge and analyses on some topics covered during the lectures. However, the students are under no obligation to respond.
The literary version of the class' content is to be found in Th. BALZACQ et al., Fondements de science politique, Bruxelles, De Boeck, 2014. The relevant excerpts from the handbook are listed in a document available on the class' webpage, on the Moodle interactive platform, under the heading “Matière du cours”. Finally, a portfolio of slides will be made available in an electronic format on the Moodle platform as well as in a physical format at the ‘Reprographie'. It will support and illustrate the oral developments.

The learning activity presents itself as a series of assignments put online every week on the Moodle interactive platform. Each assignment is made of a question addressing the content of the latest lecture. The answer to each question should not exceed five lines. The questions are handpicked amongst previous exam questions and anticipate the type of question the student will have to answer during her exam. Each student must submit his completed assignment every week, beginning on the second lecture.
The completed assignment will be submitted in an electronic format every week before the deadline mentioned on the Moodle platform (generally four to five days after the lecture). They will be considered as valid if they have been duly completed and submitted within the defined timeframe. In total, the students will have to submit at least 8 assignments over the semester if they want to obtain a two points bonus which will be added to their ‘normal' result for their exam (see below “Assessment Methods”). If the student must retake the exam during the second session, and if she benefits from a bonus, this bonus will also apply to her second session's exam.
The assignments' content will not be assessed. The only aspect taken into consideration for the eventual assessment of the learning activity is the regularity with which the assignments have been submitted on time. Each assignment will be corrected and discussed during the following lecture. Some examples of good and bad answers will subsequently be put on the online platform. It is up to the student to assess their own answers and to gauge the distance between them and the correct ones.

Assessment methods and criteria :
It is a two-hours long written exam. It is made of 4 questions, each assessed on 10 points. The resulting total is then divided by two to obtain a consolidated result on 20 points to which one can add possibly a two points bonus (see previous section).
The exam is made of a question for each of the 4 sub-sections of the lectures. The questions will invite the students to analyse, with the appropriate methodological tools from political science, some concrete political situations, not covered during the lectures. The students must apply the relevant theoretical knowledge (selected into a 40 items list) to the cases presented. Each question will be based on a newspaper's article containing enough fact-based information to carry the analysis.
If the exam could not be held in a classroom, a one hour long online open-book exam would be alternatively organized including MCQ.

Recommended or required reading :
Th. BALZACQ et al., Fondements de science politique, Bruxelles, De Boeck, 2014.
No other reading is required. For the students wishing to go further, the handbook contains some additional bibliographical suggestions. The students will also find on the class' Moodle page a list of helpful bibliographical resources: handbooks of introduction to political science, specialized dictionaries of political science, introductory articles to Belgium's institutions and political life, as well as the electronic address of several associations of political scientists' webpages.

Other information :
The class has a Moodle webpage on which the students will find, amongst other things, the following documents:
- the up-to-date version of the Power Point slides' portfolio,
- a list of the exact excerpts of the handbook (Fondements de la science politique) constitutive of the class' content,
- a list of the elements of theoretical content constitutive of the exam's material (actualized at the end of the semester),
- copies of previous years' exams and their correct answers.
- An online forum is also available for the students to ask any question, provide some answers to their co-students, and communicate with the professor.
It is also on the Moodle webpage that the students will upload their assignments and that the professor will share the correct answers to the assignments' questions.