Fahnen der EU-Mitgliedsländer wehen am Eingang zum Europaparlament in Strassburg


Module 2: Why knowledge about the EU is important – what are the consequences if people have little or no knowledge about the EU and its tasks?

Learning objectives

The students …
  • are able to analyse the campaigning in advance of the Brexit referendum by means of different material (cartoon, statements, text, expert’s interview). They see that the campaigning tended to base on emotionality as well as lies and half-truths respectively
  • are able to deduce – supported by information delivered in an expert’s interview – why it is important to understand and to be informed when it comes to political decisions
  • deal with their opinions on and attitudes towards Europe – maybe even with other EU citizen’s opinions, depending on the type of survey. Moreover, the students address their knowledge about the Elections to the European Parliament
  • get to know methods of empirical social research and learn about the relevance of surveys
  • collect data and deduce correlations by using methods of empirical social research
  • apply statistical methods of data evaluation (simple frequencies/contingency table) and analyse the data with regard to scope, graphic rendition, tendencies, and regularities
  • present the issues and facts they prepared autonomously accurately well as comprehensively by means of selected presentation formats
In the first part of the module, the students engage in the Brexit referendum by way of example. This illuminates the consequences of limited knowledge about the EU. Presumably, many Brits were not aware of the implications and final consequences of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. This may be the reason for the success of the campaigns that were based on emotionality and half-truths.

Introduction: Cartoon concerning Brexit campaigning

YummyYummy (© Brian Adcock)
At the beginning the students occupy themselves with a cartoon (M 02.01) concerning the campaigning before the Brexit referendum. The cartoon illustrates that scaremongering and lies were used in the campaigning.

Working Phase: Based on this finding, the students analyse the material (M 02.02) “All Lies?” with regard to headlines and statements from the Brexit campaigning. Students scrutinise the validity of the statements by searching the Internet, and assess the campaigning’s strategies.

The material allows for an internal differentiation. While some statement’s validity can be checked fairly quickly, this is rather difficult for other statements. Thus, the decision which and how many statements are checked can be left to the students. Subsequently, the results are gathered in class.

Even if some statements are too complex to allow for clear classifications as lies, it becomes clear that campaigning was driven by half-truths and superficial statements that did not wholly encompass the respective issue. The aim was to stir up the public and fill stereotypes. Top-performing students may be given the opportunity to scrutinise the issue in more detail.

The validity as well as the analysis of the campaign’s strategies are addressed in the discussion of the results.

Teachers can get background information concerning the assessment and classification of the statements with the help of material Info M 02.02.

In case there is only little time available or the class is rather weak, this material can be left out. Alternatively, the results of the Brexit referendum can be addressed right after the introduction on base of the cartoons.

When addressing the results of the Brexit referendum, students investigate the actual turnout.

Working Phase: How did Britain vote?
Brexit ResultsBrexit Results (© Team Research with GrafStat)
The students analyse the turnout and results of the Brexit referendum with the help of selected diagrams (M 02.03). The analysis elucidates unequivocal tendencies among different population group (depending on age, educational achievement or political party preference) to vote remain or leave. The material can be worked on by means of the worksheet individually or by making use of the Think-Pair-Share format.

After discussing the results in class, a new question arises: In how far did knowledge about the EU or the very lack thereof influence the Brexit decision and the campaigns’ effectiveness.

Karikatur von Christian Adams in der sowohl ein Vertreter der Leave als auch ein Vertreter der Remain-Brexit-Kampagne einem im Bett liegenden Kind Angst macht mit dem Spruch: "Wenn du die EU nicht verlässt ... bzw. nicht in der EU bleibst, dann holt dich der Bogeyman!"The Bogeyman von Christian Adams (© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2016)
Material M 02.04 is a text deepening the understanding by elaborating on the details of the campaigning as well as on the role of knowledge and information in political decision-making processes. The Brexit’s actual consequences were probably widely unknown to the public. (Result: reliance on campaign’s accuracy)

Additional material: Expert’s interview: Prof. Dr. Oliver Treib (Münster University)

In the interview, Professor Treib (political scientist, Chair of Comparative Policy Research and Methods of Empirical Social Research at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster) addresses this question. He elaborates on many aspects about the Brexit referendum students already know from Module 2. Moreover, he specifies the role of knowledge and information for the public by media and politics prior to political decision-making processes, e.g. prior to a referendum.

Thus, the interview is a base for memorising and consolidation.

The bottom line of the first part of this module is that knowledge about the EU is crucial, especially for making responsible political decisions.

Survey Project During the second part of the module, students investigate their very own knowledge about the EU and about the Elections to the European Parliament in class or in public: Which opinions on and attitudes towards the EU are prevailing?

Transition: The question leading over from the first to the second part of the module could be: “How good is the general knowledge about the EU and its tasks? How can we find out about what people know and think about the EU?”

In class, possibilities for examining the question are sought after. Students will possibly enumerate surveys as one way to investigate the issue.

Subsequently, a survey addressing the “attitudes towards and knowledge about the EU” can be planned, conducted and analysed.

German-speaking classes can use the software GrafStat (free of charge for public education sector) as a tool. An English Version is available on demand (mailto:uwe.diener@grafstat.de) for a low fee (educational discount).

Students can plan and realise the survey’s conduction and analysis autonomously.

There is a model questionnaire (M 02.05) available, providing appropriate items for interrogating the attitudes towards and the knowledge about the EU. The model questionnaire is available as PDF and as GrafStat questionnaire (ZIP file) and can be modified by students with the help of the software, if necessary (deleting existing questions, adding new ones, etc.).

In case the teacher wants their students to create their very own questionnaire, we recommend searching for similar surveys in advance.

This allows for following tested items when designing the questionnaires. Moreover, during the data analysis one has recourse to comparison data.

A collection of helpful information concerning the use of the GrafStat software in class (creating questionnaires, planning surveys, analysis of data, etc.) can support the planning and conduction of the survey.

Worksheet Data AnalysisWorksheet Data Analysis (© Team Research with GrafStat)
There are aids available (M 02.06 and M 02.07) that seek to support the analysis and interpretation of data.

The analysis of data may be performed in group work.

Groups can be composed according to the questionnaire’s following subject matter:
  • Group I: Attitude towards the EU: Questions 5 to 8, and 29
  • Group II: Being informed about the EU: Questions 9 to 12, and possibly 13
  • Group III: Knowledge about the EU: Questions 14 to 18
  • Group III: Interest and reliance on Europe: Questions 22 to 27
  • Group IV: Attitude towards the Elections to the European Parliament: Questions 19 to 21, and 28
For the analysis the following questions may serve as additional superordinate central questions:
  • What is the relation between knowledge about the EU and attitudes towards the EU? Positive or negative? (contingency table)
  • Does the comparison of the generations show any differences? (contingency table)
  • Do we have to know more? (knowledge questions)
  • etc.
Method: gallery walkGallery Walk (© Team Research with GrafStat)
Finally, the results of the data analysis are presented in class. The groups may use growing posters for preparation. In a gallery walk may the students present and elucidate their results.

The following module is about the acquisition of knowledge about the EU and the Elections to the European Parliament.

A PDF-Icon summary table concerning the schedule of this module is available.