Teaching the Scientific Study of International Processes
- D. Scott BennettD. Scott BennettDepartment of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University
The Scientific Study of International Processes (SSIP) is an approach aimed at teaching of international politics scientifically. Teaching scientifically means teaching students how to use evidence to support or disprove some particular logical argument or hypothesis that reaches some level of generalization about relationships between concepts. Closely related to simply asking what evidence there is, is teaching students to address the breadth, depth, and quality of that evidence. The scientific approach may also draw attention to the logic of arguments and policies. Are policies, positions, and the arguments behind them logical? Or is some policy or position based on assumptions that are not logically related, or only true if certain auxiliary assumptions hold true? Teaching methods for SSIP include comparative case studies, experiments and surveys, data sets, and game theory and simulation. Instructors also face several challenges when seeking to teach scientifically, and in particular when they try to make time to teach methodology as part of an international politics course. Some problems are relatively easily overcome just by focusing on effective teaching. Other are unique to SSIP and cannot be dealt with quite so easily. Among these are the need to appeal to a broad audience, and dealing with students' negative reactions to the term “science” and the constraint of finite time in a course.