In this activity, students create concept maps showing how various Indian institutions relate to and constrain each other. Below is a description of how to prime the students for the activity followed by the actual steps of the activity.
In The Politics of India, during the week on institutions, students do a series of readings about various Indian political institutions (the Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Supreme Court, the military, the President, etc). At the beginning of class, the instructor talks a little bit about institutions as rules of the game, and then explains how difficult it is to design the rules of games for sustained play - so that it's not possible for someone to gain an early advantage and take over the game permanently. The instructor makes the obvious metaphorical connection to political institutions, walking the students through different understandings of institutions in sociology vs. political science, and then the class spend the rest of the class on the following activity:
Mapping Indian Political Institutions
Separate the class into 4 groups of 3 or 4 people. Make sure they've all brought their coursepacks (with readings) and have access to the internet.
- Give each group a sheet of easel pad paper and several colors of sharpies.
- Ask each group to create a map of Indian political institutions. Each "institution" (e.g. the Rajya Sabha, or Upper House) will be represented by an oval with its name inside, and the institutions will be connected by arrows, which represent specific ways in which one institution has a "check" (the power to constrain) on another institution. For each arrow, the students must write the nature of the check (e.g. "President can dissolve the Lok Sabha and call elections if there's no majority").
- Give students 30 minutes to do this activity. Walk around to each group and see if they're stuck.
- Once they've all drawn their maps, have them tape them each to the blackboard and take a seat
- We sit together and examine all the maps side-by-side. First, ask them to note out loud whether some maps were missing things that other maps observed. Put up the instructor's version of the map for comparison, noting that they've cleverly come up with something the instructor missed.
- Finally, ask them to talk about what they notice from the maps in terms of which institutions seem to be more or less powerful, vis-a-vis other institutions. They usually notice right away that there are very few arrows pointing toward the Supreme Court - and then help them make the connection between that observation and the article the class read, which talks about how the Supreme Court has become more and more "activist" and is claiming greater powers.
- If there's time, ask them what they would change about the map if they were setting up the rules of the game themselves, given what they read about how well the various institutions function.
- After class, take digital photos of each map with my phone or camera and email all of them to the class afterwards, so they have a record of their work.