Teaching International Relations With Case Studies
- Ralph G. CarterRalph G. CarterDepartment of Political Science, Texas Christian University
Case-based learning offers several advantages in the study of international relations. For instructors, the primary attraction of case-based learning is its emphasis on active student engagement. Rather than reading the assigned material, passively listening to lectures, and memorizing notes, students are drawn into more active roles as their classroom instructors ask questions and require student participation. For students, case-based learning connects course material to the real world beyond the classroom. Regardless of the nature of the case or its source, instructors can take steps to ensure success with a case-based approach. First, instructors should know the details of the case: the background, the facts and events, the issues, the participants, and the results. Second, instructors should ensure that the physical setting of the classroom is appropriate for the anticipated task. Third, instructors should be attentive to the size of the class. Small classes promote participation by more students. Finally, instructors can be attentive to the possibility of pairing cases for comparative discussion and analysis. The success of case-based learning also rests in students' awareness that that passivity on their part is unacceptable. Thus, instructors must be sure that they convey the expectation that students must come to class ready to participate. Some common problems associated with case-based learning include time management, silence or apathy on the part of the students, and the failed class.