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Fiction, Fact, and Gen Z in International Relations and Comparative Pedagogy  

Amy L. Atchison

Interchangeably called Gen Z, Generation Z, Gen Zers, and Zoomers, the generation born between the mid-1990s and early to mid-2010s now makes up the majority of postsecondary students. In countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Malaysia, and the United States, and across such disparate disciplines as engineering, legal studies, and nursing, faculty are working toward modernizing the learning environment to support Gen Z learners. The Gen Z pedagogy movement is necessary for two reasons. First, Gen Z learners are experientially different from their instructors, many of whom are baby boomers and Gen Xers. Gen Zers’ childhoods were dominated by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Their early experiences with economic uncertainty have left Gen Zers with a strong need for practical, hands-on education that develops marketable skills. Learning for the sake of learning does not motivate them. Second, Gen Z learners are cognitively different than any previous generation due to the pervasive presence of social media in their lives. Constant exposure to social media has rewired Gen Zers’ brains, making them more responsive to visual images than to text or audio while also shrinking their attention spans. Gen Zers are interested in learning but feel educational practices have fallen behind the experiential and cognitive changes in the student body. Reaching Gen Z requires an understanding not just of their generational distinctiveness but also of their ability gaps and learning needs. Research indicates that Gen Zers struggle with focus, close reading, and critical thinking. While no single pedagogical tool will address all of their needs, practices that work best with Gen Zers include hands-on and experiential learning, short videos, and low-stakes group work. In addition, they benefit from specific instructions and regular feedback. If international relations and comparative politics faculty are to engage with Gen Z effectively, their pedagogical practices need to meet Gen Zers’ interests and needs.

Article

Teaching International Relations With Case Studies  

Ralph G. Carter

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.

Article

Simulations and Games to Teach Conflict and Political Violence  

Amanda M. Rosen

There are seven key considerations for instructors and scholars using simulations and games (SAGs) to teach conflict and political violence: learning outcomes, conflict stage, scenario choice, role assignment, time required, gameplay mechanics, and postgame reflection. In each of these areas, there is a new typology or categorization in an effort to provide a standard language for work in this field moving forward—an essential effort as SAGs grow in acceptance in the college classroom. Learning outcomes are divided into content and skills, while there are five stages of conflict: preconflict, crisis response, active conflict, war termination, and postconflict. Scenario choice ranges from historical and contemporary simulations grounded in the “real world” to fictional, representative, and abstract exercises. Considerations for role assignment include whether roles are necessary, the level of analysis of different roles, and how to conduct simulations in large classes, while “time required” divides exercises by their level of intensity. Gameplay mechanics divide SAGs by those with board game–style mechanics, those that involve negotiation plus round-based actions, and those that focus on negotiations to craft agreements. Finally, postgame reflection considers the value and drawbacks of conducting formal assessment of SAGs. More work is needed to create simulations focused on individual authors, increased attention to adapting physical classroom games for the online and hybrid environment, more authenticity in simulation design, diversifying the student experience in simulations, and creating common criteria for effective simulations to teach conflict and political violence.

Article

International Relations (IR) in Colombia  

Carolina Cepeda-Másmela and Arlene B. Tickner

Assessing the International Relations (IR) discipline in Colombia requires deep description of key aspects related to its genealogy, the nature of its scholars and research, and its community structure. IR in Colombia grew out of practical concerns about the creation of adequate human and institutional resources needed to analyze world affairs and Colombian foreign policy. As the field expanded and consolidated, the IR professoriate became more robust and diverse in terms of thematic and geographical trends in research and increased levels of integration at the national and international levels. Several factors have figured prominently in shaping the discipline in Colombia, including the academic training and professional focus of IR scholars, foreign policy interests of the Colombian state, internationalization processes in academia, financial and institutional constraints on research, and patterns of interaction between scholars and policy makers. IR studies in Colombia have not been thoroughly explored, and broad description both allows for a preliminary explanation of their general character and highlights the need for greater reflection about the field’s evolution, shape, and challenges.

Article

Race, Racism, and the Teaching of International Relations  

Somdeep Sen

Discussions of race and racism are often missing in the curriculum of international relations courses or, when present, categorized as a “critical approach” and placed outside the mainstream. But this absence or marginalization from the mainstream of the discipline does not mean that such discussions are beyond the scope of its primary agenda—that is, theorize interstate relations. On the contrary, questions of race and racism have been foundational to the historical development of international relations. In its formative years, the discipline’s understanding of the global order was shaped by the Darwinist conceptions of racial hierarchies adopted by some its core theorists. They viewed the imperial domination of the “White races” over the “darker peoples of the world” to be justified, considering the immeasurable racial superiority of the former. Revisionist international relations scholars, also active during the formative years of the discipline, worked to upend these racialized hierarchies and underlined the need to account for the struggles and national aspirations of the dominated in international politics. Yet, international relations’ racist disciplinary precepts have persisted, and a color line—both globally and within the discipline—continues to divide the world into racialized, binary categories (e.g., civilized/uncivilized, modern/backward, and developed/undeveloped) that legitimize Western authority in international politics. However, the introduction of race and racism in the teaching of the discipline equally unsettles the assumption that international relations embodies a value-free scientific endeavor. Instead, the role of racist precepts in the making and workings of the field demonstrates that the discipline’s mainstream is deeply positioned in its view of the world and, as a consequence, fails to account for the multiplicity of ways in which international politics is encountered and experienced.

Article

Teaching Human Rights With Active Learning  

Michelle Allendoerfer

For decades, international studies instructors have adopted active learning techniques to engage students in a wide range of classes. The literature on active learning suggests many benefits of integrating these methods into courses as a complement to traditional teaching modes such as lectures. These benefits include motivating and engaging students, enhancing learning of content, and supporting skill building. Although the empirical literature on active learning is mixed, the general consensus from the literature is that active learning is a valuable supplement to other teaching methods. Students and faculty find active learning enjoyable and engaging. Human rights courses, specifically, can benefit from engaging students. Active learning can help students unpack their preconceived ideas about human rights, identify the challenges that face international efforts to cooperate, and better understand the world around them. At the same time, human rights courses often cover sensitive topics that can present challenges for instructors wanting to engage in active learning techniques. It is important to be mindful of how to approach these topics, regardless of teaching method and especially when using active learning techniques that give students more agency in the classroom. Focusing on best practices for active learning provides a useful guide to managing the challenges that using active learning poses in human rights courses. In particular, instructors should align activities with course learning objectives, give careful consideration to the selection of topics and questions, create a classroom environment that is conductive to respectful engagement, and use debriefing techniques at the conclusion of an activity. Active learning, when designed and implemented carefully, can help create a transformational learning experience for students in a human rights course.

Article

Teaching Genocide  

Jeffrey S. Bachman

Teaching genocide is a complex endeavor. The field of genocide studies is unique in the scale of its interdisciplinarity. Indeed, genocide studies lacks a disciplinary home, meaning those who teach genocide approach the subject from incredibly diverse disciplines, fields, and subfields. Yet, despite the pedagogical activity on genocide education, including the proliferation of undergraduate and graduate courses, many students will only take one course on genocide before they graduate. When designing a course on genocide, teachers must decide what to include in such a course. Teaching genocide is further complicated by ongoing debates and contestation in the field. Though the Genocide Convention legally defines genocide, this definition has been endlessly scrutinized, with scholars identifying numerous deficiencies and developing alternative definitions. Which definition of genocide employed is also a determining factor in which cases are recognized as genocide. When certain definitions are used, in particular those that limit genocide to mass killing, and a limited number of applicable cases are studied, a hegemonic understanding of genocide may emerge. Therefore, the definitional debates have implications for genocide recognition, response, and historical memory. Contestation and debate in genocide studies, however, also provides teachers with space for creativity and innovation. Students can join their teachers as genocide scholars. Together, teachers and students can participate in the definitional debates and analyze cases. They can approach questions such as how did mass killing come to be synonymous with genocide? And why are some cases of genocide studied disproportionately compared with others? The answers to these and associated questions have real consequences for affected peoples and historical memory. Importantly, teaching genocide can be an act of critical exploration, or what Dirk Moses and Alex Hinton refer to as “critical genocide studies.” Teachers need guidance for designing a course that encourages critical engagement through direct participation in the field’s many debates.

Article

Service Learning Study Abroad Trips in International Studies  

Jessica Auchter

International service learning has become increasingly popular in higher education. Such trips focus on cultivating skills in students, including civic engagement and intercultural understanding, while also being key ways for students to achieve self-growth and learn to apply and contextualize the theories they learn in the classroom in the real world. The goals often outlined in the literature about international service learning tend to be student-centric. While pedagogical goals matter, faculty should also keep in mind the ethics of engaging community partners, especially given the often unequal power relationship at play in the practice of international service learning. Being more attentive to these ethical dilemmas may not eliminate them, but it will ensure that students are considering and learning from the gray areas involved in international service learning, including their own individual relationships to power and injustice. Additionally, faculty should consider how to avoid replicating neocolonial logics in their desire to expose students to the world beyond themselves. Specifically, faculty should be more mindful of the language they use to describe these trips and avoid reifying the notion that service learning is something to be done in the developing world while study trips tend to be conducted in the developed world. Engaging reciprocity with a community partner in both the design and practice of the trip, preparing for cultural complexity in advance by situating the students in larger sets of geopolitical and economic practices, being honest about the skill set students bring to the table, being aware of the cultural and gender dynamics at play, and building in time for reflection before, during, and after the trip are all ways to attend to the larger ethical considerations at play.

Article

Teaching International Relations Theory in Introductory Global Politics Courses  

Jamie Frueh and Jeremy Youde

Theory can be a controversial element of an Introduction to International Relations (IR) course. Many undergraduate students have not been trained to think theoretically, and as a result many instructors find the abstract elements of IR theory difficult to teach, especially to students who lack the motivation provided by plans to major in political science or IR. But learning to think theoretically and to understand IR theory specifically is a valuable exercise for undergraduate students, particularly for nonmajors. Whether or not one believes IR theory to be good in and of itself, studying theory is a critical component of a complete liberal education, one that prepares students to be engaged global citizens. In addition to exploring effective ways to teach particular theories, instructors should work on making sense of the purpose of studying IR theory in ways that resonate with students. Learning IR theory requires students to think theoretically, something familiar to all who have survived the gauntlet of a doctoral program. Teaching students to think theoretically requires instructors, first, to empathize with the limited experience most undergraduate students have with academic theory, and second, to build learning environments that engage and authorize students as theoreticians. Utilizing active learning techniques and thoughtful assessment exercises, instructors can create environments more conducive to learning IR theory while engaging students in areas and media to which they are already connected. This approach to teaching requires adventurousness in the classroom and broader discussions about how to teach IR in general.

Article

Global Studies  

Amentahru Wahlrab

A review of introductory international relations, international studies, and global studies textbooks reveals that each field defines itself differently: one in terms of its central focus on the diplomatic and strategic relations of states, the second more broadly by including transnational transactions of all kinds, and the third focusing on globalization as both an object of analysis and a lens through which to view nearly all phenomena. However, in reading past the definitional chapters there are clear overlaps—most notably with regard to each introductory textbook’s treatment of globalization. Close examination of recently published introductory textbooks and those well into multiple editions reveals that globalization is treated as a fundamental aspect of each of the three fields. While both International Relations (IR) and International Studies (IS) scholars have contributed significantly to further broadening of both IR and IS in order to become increasingly “global,” other scholars have moved to create a new field of study called Global Studies (GS). This new field of GS developed in the 1990s as scholars from multiple disciplines began to study the many dimensions of globalization. While globalization remains an essentially contested concept, most scholars accept as uncontroversial that it refers to the many strings that connect the world such that pulling on one string in one place will make a change somewhere else. Globalization’s central dynamics include interconnectivity, reconfiguration of space and time, and enhanced mobility. GS is the only field that places the contested concept of globalization at the center of its intellectual initiative.