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Session: 2022/23

Last modified: 04/07/2022 10:46:52

Title of Module: American Politics & Policy

Code: PLTC09019 SCQF Level: 9
(Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Credit Points: 20 ECTS: 10
(European Credit Transfer Scheme)
School:School of Education & Social Sciences
Module Co-ordinator:C   Bradshaw

Summary of Module

This module is designed to offer students the chance to engage critically with a variety of ideas, institutions and issues in the contemporary United States.  The course will begin with a consideration of the Constitution of the United States, and the separate institutions which comprise the federal political structures; specifically, the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court.  This deliberation will be taken in order to examine how the United States operates at a federal level, both in terms of constitutional, political, policy and public expectations, as well as actuality.   We shall consider the framework of each aspect of the federal system and how it connects together, institutionally and in reality.  A mixture of lectures and seminars will allow us to examine, together, key aspects of the system in America today.   The course also includes analysing the powers of both governmental and non-governmental institutions, elections and voting behaviour, as well as policymaking.  Attention is also played to the debates surrounding specific policy issues and the idea of American exceptionalism.

Overall the course will therefore examine the outcomes and interplay between the institutions, elected politicians, the policy process and the public to examine the nature of the United States of America today.  We shall consider whether the ideals of the American system are still in place and whether they can be, and are being, realized in contemporary social and political outcomes.

Module Delivery Method
Face-To-FaceBlendedFully OnlineHybridCHybridOWork-based Learning
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Term used to describe the traditional classroom environment where the students and the lecturer meet synchronously in the same room for the whole provision.

A mode of delivery of a module or a programme that involves online and face-to-face delivery of learning, teaching and assessment activities, student support and feedback. A programme may be considered “blended” if it includes a combination of face-to-face, online and blended modules. If an online programme has any compulsory face-to-face and campus elements it must be described as blended with clearly articulated delivery information to manage student expectations

Fully Online
Instruction that is solely delivered by web-based or internet-based technologies. This term is used to describe the previously used terms distance learning and e learning.

Online with mandatory face-to-face learning on Campus

Online with optional face-to-face learning on Campus

Work-based Learning
Learning activities where the main location for the learning experience is in the workplace.

Campus(es) for Module Delivery
The module will normally be offered on the following campuses / or by Distance/Online Learning: (Provided viable student numbers permit)
Paisley:Ayr:Dumfries:Lanarkshire:London:Distance/Online Learning:Other:
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Term(s) for Module Delivery
(Provided viable student numbers permit).
Term 1


Term 2check markTerm 3


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Learning Outcomes: (maximum of 5 statements)

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

L1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge and understanding of key aspects of US politics and policy and the constitutional and ideological underpinnings of the system.

L2. Deploy a variety of theoretical approaches and concepts to engage in critical analysis of events, institutions and ideas in the United States of America.

L3. Analyse a contested issue in US politics & policy making effective use of a variety of printed and electronic sources.

L4. Present the results of self-directed study and analysis clearly and concisely in written form.

Employability Skills and Personal Development Planning (PDP) Skills
SCQF Headings During completion of this module, there will be an opportunity to achieve core skills in:
Knowledge and Understanding (K and U) SCQF Level 9.

Demonstrate a broad and integrated knowledge of the scope, key features and central themes of the American Federal institutions and electoral system.

Demonstrate a critical perception of the central theoretical and conceptual approaches to American politics & policy.

Demonstrate detailed awareness and knowledge of specialized areas of American Federal politics and policy.

Practice: Applied Knowledge and Understanding SCQF Level 9.

Engage in the interpretation and examination of complex socio-political concepts

Apply conceptual and theoretical tools to understand key aspects of the American Federal system

Retrieving, interpreting and manipulating primary and secondary information from a variety of sources including electronic sources

Generic Cognitive skills SCQF Level 9.

Critical analysis and evaluation of core ideas, concepts and issues in the contemporary USA

Identify flaws and apply reasoning in theoretical arguments and analysis

Collate information from a variety of sources, including academic research publications

Communication, ICT and Numeracy Skills SCQF Level 9.

Communicating effectively and appropriately in speech and writing

Interpreting complex primary materials

Making effective use of information retrieval systems and use information technology applications to present documents in an appropriate form

Autonomy, Accountability and Working with others SCQF Level 9.

Working effectively, together with others in groups or teams, taking a leadership role or exercising autonomy, where appropriate.

Systematically identifying and addressing their own learning needs both in current and new areas, making use of research materials as appropriate.

Pre-requisites: Before undertaking this module the student should have undertaken the following:
Module Code:
Module Title:
Other:Any social science modules at level 8 modules or equivalent
Co-requisitesModule Code:
Module Title:

* Indicates that module descriptor is not published.

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Learning and Teaching
The blended, online supported lecture/workshop format will be structured in a way that facilitates research-led teaching and learning. Through undertaking a range of inquiry-based and problem-solving activities, students will be encouraged to become active participants in their own learning experience.

This module will support the acquisition and development of generic attributes and employability, lifelong learning and citizenship competencies by:

1) Highlighting assessment-employability linkages to ensure the skills and competencies learners are developing are made explicit and allowing learners to evidence the development of these skills and competencies;

2) Supporting learners in the development of digital literacies through, for example, the use of online research engines and electronic tools. Learners will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their digital skills and competencies and develop their understanding of ‘digital influence’;

3) Providing learners with the opportunity to work with peers in order to develop leadership and negotiation skills and support the development of diversity awareness and interpersonal sensitivity;

4) Supporting learners in the development of self-reflection and evaluation skills and competencies through the explicit focus on personal development planning

Student contact will primarily take place through a series of blended lectures and workshops and on-line exercises. A range of learning and teaching strategies will be deployed throughout the duration of the module in order to reflect the range of learning styles of students, with opportunities for assessment based on online contributions, and oral and written presentation of academic work.
Learning Activities
During completion of this module, the learning activities undertaken to achieve the module learning outcomes are stated below:
Student Learning Hours
(Normally totalling 200 hours):
(Note: Learning hours include both contact hours and hours spent on other learning activities)
Lecture/Core Content Delivery22
Tutorial/Synchronous Support Activity8
Asynchronous Class Activity14
Independent Study156
200 Hours Total

**Indicative Resources: (eg. Core text, journals, internet access)

The following materials form essential underpinning for the module content and ultimately for the learning outcomes:

McKay, David (2017) American Politics and Society, 9th Edition, Wiley-Blackwell

Duncan, Russell and Joseph Goddard (2018) Contemporary United States, 5th Edition, Palgrave

Jacobson, Gary C., and Jamie L. Carson. (2016) The Politics of Congressional Elections. 9th ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield

Peele, G, Bailey, C. J., Cain, B, and Peters, B. G. (2018) Developments in American Politics 8, Palgrave Macmillan

Greenhouse, L. (2012) The US Supreme Court - a very short introduction. Oxford University Press

(**N.B. Although reading lists should include current publications, students are advised (particularly for material marked with an asterisk*) to wait until the start of session for confirmation of the most up-to-date material)

Engagement Requirements

In line with the Academic Engagement Procedure, Students are defined as academically engaged if they are regularly engaged with timetabled teaching sessions, course-related learning resources including those in the Library and on the relevant learning platform, and complete assessments and submit these on time. Please refer to the Academic Engagement Procedure at the following link: Academic engagement procedure

Where a module has Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body requirements these will be listed here:
All fulltime students (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries) are required to attend all scheduled classes and participate with all delivered elements of the module as part of their engagement with their programme of study. Consideration will be given to students who have protection under the appropriate equality law. Please refer to UWS Regulations, Chapter 1, 1.64 – 1.67, available at the following link:

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Supplemental Information

Programme BoardSocial Sciences
Assessment Results (Pass/Fail) No
Subject PanelUG Social Sciences - Politics & Criminal Justice
External ExaminerJ Derounian
Accreditation Details
Version Number


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Assessment: (also refer to Assessment Outcomes Grids below)
A Multiple Choice Online Quiz worth 30% of the final mark.
Online Class Test, worth 70% of the final mark.
(N.B. (i) Assessment Outcomes Grids for the module (one for each component) can be found below which clearly demonstrate how the learning outcomes of the module will be assessed.
(ii) An indicative schedule listing approximate times within the academic calendar when assessment is likely to feature will be provided within the Student Handbook.)

Assessment Outcome Grids (Footnote A.)

Component 1
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Class test (written)check markcheck markcheck mark 301

Component 2
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Class test (written)check markcheck markcheck markcheck mark703
Combined Total For All Components100% 4 hours

A. Referred to within Assessment Section above
B. Identified in the Learning Outcome Section above

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  1. More than one assessment method can be used to assess individual learning outcomes.
  2. Schools are responsible for determining student contact hours. Please refer to University Policy on contact hours (extract contained within section 10 of the Module Descriptor guidance note).
    This will normally be variable across Schools, dependent on Programmes &/or Professional requirements.

Equality and Diversity
Aligned with the overall commitment to equality and diversity stated in the Programme Specifications, the module supports equality of opportunity for students from all backgrounds and with different learning needs. Using Moodle, learning materials will be presented electronically in formats that allow flexible access and manipulation of content (part-time and distant learning students should check with their programme leader for any queries). The module complies with University regulations and guidance on inclusive learning and teaching practice. Specialist assistive equipment, support provision and adjustment to assessment practice will be made in accordance with UWS policy and regulations. The University’s Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Policy can be accessed at the following link:

Our partners are fully committed to the principles and practice of inclusiveness and our modules are designed to be accessible to all. Where this module is delivered overseas, local equivalent support for students and appropriate legislation applies.

UWS Equality and Diversity Policy
(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)

2014 University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity.

Charity number SC002520.