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POL2022 : Government and Politics of the USA

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr James Bilsland
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


There are two main aims for this course. First, to develop a well-informed, critical and conceptually sophisticated understanding of US government and politics. Second, to foster an improved grasp of the discipline of politics, especially the concepts, models, theories and methods appropriate to the study of US politics.

The module begins by introducing students to the founding of the United States and the drafting of the constitution. The module then examines the historical development and contemporary workings of the major institutions of the federal government: the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court. The relationship between US citizens and their government will be discussed in relation to elections, parties, interest groups and the media. The course will also explore US foreign policy and the role of the US as an international actor.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics covered may include: 1. Background: History, Culture, Society, 2. The Constitution of the United States, 3. Federalism and the States, 4. The President, 5. The Congress, 6. The Supreme Court, 7. Elections & Voting, 8. Parties & the Party System, 9. Interest Groups, 10. The Media & Politics, 11. Foreign Policy.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module employs a combination of formal lectures and small group seminars. Lectures, supported by Powerpoint presentations and handouts, focus on political and academic debates concerning American politics. Small group teaching seeks to deepen students' engagement with the subject matter, to provide opportunities for questions, and to facilitate learning through debate and discussion. POL2022 makes extensive use of the Blackboard Managed Learning Environment, to disseminate learning and teaching material, provide access to supporting resources on American politics, and to enhance tutor-student communication.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination602A50Multiple Choice Paper.
Written Examination902A50Unseen written exam
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module employs a mix of assessment methods to allow the student to demonstrate their overall level of attainment in relation to intended learning outcomes for this module. The multiple choice exam  tests relevant factual knowledge, and facilitates timely self-appraisal . The student's grasp of specific issues in American politics, and ability to discuss them in a relevant, knowledgeable, critical and coherent manner under time constraint, are tested in the unseen examination.

Exchange Students:

An alternative form of assessment will be set for exchange students from non-English speaking home institutions replacing the examination. The alternative form of assessment is set in accordance with the University Assessment tariff.

Reading Lists