PIPS (Puzzles in Political Science): An Academic Module Bank for Political Science Courses

Lilach Gilady, Assistant Professor – Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Science

This project seeks to develop an online international relations/political science ‘puzzle bank.’ The system will offer a selection of thoroughly researched and well-presented modules built around empirical puzzles. Each such module would present the puzzle, include related media (maps, graphs, photos, and videos), link to a selection of articles, books and data sets, list potential research questions, and provide structured space for collaboration.

The proposed PIPS system will develop both the technological platform as well as the needed content in order to encourage a Problem-based Learning (PBL) approach to the teaching of political science, regardless of class size, both in regular classes as well as in remote-learning settings. Despite a growing interest in PBL among political science scholars, there has been no serious attempt to develop the resources needed for PBL-centered undergraduate courses in the discipline. The proposed PIPS system seeks to fill-up this glaring lacuna. If successful, it will offer an innovative supplement, or even an alternative, to the good old textbook.

While this initial proposal focuses on empirical puzzles in international security, this project is easily scalable and can expand to other sub-fields of political science, as well as to other social science disciplines.  The seed money will be used to develop the initial interface for this ‘puzzle bank’ and to experiment with these modules in my third-year course (POL380). I hope to be able to test a basic PIPS system in my 2016-17 courses and to move to a broader testing of the system in additional international relations courses in the following academic year. It is quite easy to envision how this project can easily scale up or down both within and even outside the University of Toronto. I therefore believe that this proposal fully matches the spirit of the LEAF grant, especially in the potential it has to re-imagine and reinvent undergraduate education in international relations, political science and maybe even beyond. Ultimately, a fully developed PIPS system can be self-sustaining through the sale of access rights to users from other institutions and through the use of a crowd-sourcing model for the development and renewal of content.