Good government requires good oversight, and it’s never too soon to have students thinking about what good oversight means and its role in society. For that purpose, we have compiled instructional materials related to legislative oversight and government accountability.
Teaching Bipartisan, Fact-Based Oversight
Legislative oversight can be examined as part of civics education, political science, history, or law, in high school through graduate school settings. A variety of approaches are possible:
- Examining the history and impact of oversight
- Examining the mechanics of oversight
- Exploring specific case studies
- Evaluating how oversight can expose problems and produce reforms
- Conducting a model oversight hearing online
Legislative oversight can also be used to deepen understanding of substantive issues by examining past legislative hearings or conducting model oversight hearings on current topics such as health care, climate change, technology, or other issues.
Oversight exercises encourage critical thinking, issue spotting, creativity, persuasive writing, and public speaking. They can be used to generate a variety of written and oral assignments including issue lists, hearing statements, probing questions, hearing exhibits, video presentations, and media releases.
Oversight exercises can help teach students how to distinguish between facts and opinions, evaluate evidence, and learn when evidence is sufficient to establish a fact.
Oversight exercises, when done well, can also help teach students how to reach across political divides. The Levin Center philosophy is that when lawmakers and their staffs who hold different views work together in good faith to find facts, they gather more information, analyze it more intently, consider a wider range of issues, and, by challenging each other, end up with consensus findings that are more accurate, thorough, thoughtful, and credible. Along the way, oversight exercises can help teach civility, patience, and respect for differing views.
To help develop an oversight exercise or an entire course on oversight, we have compiled some resources that may be of interest.
Portraits in Oversight
Scholars, educators, the public, and even legislators are not always sure what is meant by the term “oversight.” To help explain, we’ve compiled short portraits of important congressional oversight investigations as well as Members of Congress who set key oversight precedents or otherwise left their mark on the oversight world. Join us for a quick history walk!