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Interest Groups at Work

90 min

Essential Question 

  • How well do interest groups represent the voices, concerns, and needs of citizens while working to connect the people and the government? 

Guiding Questions 

  • In what ways do interest groups influence government actions/policy making? 
  • How do the variations in interest groups and the resources they possess affect their ability to influence?  
  • In what ways do interest groups help or hinder individual voices? 


  • The student will be able to explain the benefits and potential problems of interest groups’ influence on policy making.  


Student Resources: 

Teacher Resources: 

  • Questions to ask students from lesson plan 

Key Terms:

  • Free-rider– non-members that benefit from the work of an interest group

Facilitation Notes 

  • Teachers will need to compile a variety of interest groups for students to choose from. Teachers are encouraged to choose interest groups that not only meet the needs of the assignment but suit the needs of their students (interest areas, fill gaps in knowledge, be relevant to region, appropriate for classroom environment, etc.). 


  • Ask students “If you were asked to provide guidance to the government on one topic, what would that topic be and what guidance might you provide?”  

Scaffolding note: Students might be slow to begin, you can ask them to reflect on what/where they spend the most time, what they enjoy doing the most, experiences they have had, etc. (Students would be great at providing guidance on education, being a student athlete, their line of work, managing a food allergy/other medical condition, family business, being a sibling or other family dynamics, etc.). 

  • Transition: Today’s lesson is on interest groups, which are associations of people with common characteristics, beliefs, or desires that work to encourage the government to make policies to benefit those interests. In other words, groups of people who have those ‘topics’ of expertise like we just mentioned and want the government to listen to their guidance and act.  


Day One: 

  • Provide access to the Interest Groups at Work Infographic in whichever way works best (print/digital) and help students understand the basics of the ways interest groups work.  

Scaffolding note: Students may need a reminder to differentiate between political action committees, political parties, and interest groups if you have talked about them before. Asking students “what is the main goal of each?” or “what does each hope to achieve?” will help them distinguish.  

  • Transition: Tell students that interest groups have different resources available to them to make those action steps from the infographic possible. Up next, they will look at specific interest groups to see how effective they can be.  
  • Divide students as desired (individual or small group) and assign each one of the preselected interest groups (see facilitation notes). Handout Interest Group Analysis Graphic Organizer. Give students time to begin researching their interest group.  

Scaffolding noteResources available to interest groups include how many members they have, how much money they spend, connections to government officials (frequency and duration). 

Day Two 

  • Give students enough time to finish researching their interest group and complete the analysis chart.  
  • Ask students the assess/reflect questions. 

Optional Activity: Depending on time, teachers might ask students to share their interest group with a classmate/small group.  

Assess & Reflect 

  • Ask students the following questions: 
    • Based on everything you have learned,  
      • How well do interest groups help individuals connect with the government?
      • How much do interest groups hinder individuals’ connection to the government? 
      • Which action that interest groups take seems to be the most effective? 
      • Does membership in an interest group seem like something you would consider? Why or why not? 


  • Students can do a study on the different types of interest groups (economic, single issue, ideological, public interest, societal, etc.) and rank their effectiveness as a linkage institution or voice of the people.  
  • For an AP course, students can further investigate specific iron triangles or issue networks interest group has been a part of. 

Student Handouts