How to Use the Current Election to Teach Adult Students About Democracy

Posted by on March 8th, 2016

Media coverage about the upcoming elections is a golden opportunity for teaching and learning about democracy. Educators can use current events, candidate information, debates, polls and more to tap into students’ minds to help them better understand key concepts in meaningful ways. Here are some ideas on how to utilize the buzz about the current elections to teach relevant social studies topics.

Question the Election

An excellent starting point for discussing the election and its role in democracy is to question its existence. Engage your adult students in a conversation about why the elections are important and what the possibilities are if there were no elections. This question is especially significant for adult students because they are the main participants in the upcoming elections. Ask them whether they are planning to vote or not and why, as well as why it is important for Americans to exercise their right to vote.


Research the Parties

Despite being household terms, many people do not understand the difference between democratic and republican parties. In most cases, the representatives (or candidates) become more popular than the parties they represent, so the general public remembers the names of the candidates more than the political stand of the parties these candidates hail from.

Instead of focusing on just the candidates, encourage students to explore the parties behind them. A simple comparison chart between the two major political parties can provide a springboard for future lessons on democracy.


Research the Candidates

Since your students are old enough to vote, asking them to research the candidates will not only help them learn about democracy, but also prepare them for the upcoming elections. Begin by creating a list of each candidate’s educational background, accomplishments, previous positions, and other statistical information. This can help generate a factual comparison of candidates free of bias.


Discuss the Importance of Voter Turnout

Voter turnout is an important aspect of any election. Study the voter turnout for past elections and discuss the trends observed. Talk about low voter turnout in the U.S., the possible reasons behind it, and its possible effects. Ask students to come up with ways to encourage more people to vote on election day.


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