Kay Gibson and Carolyn M. Shaw
With the shift in learning objectives that were more focused on the development of skills and processes, new assessment techniques were required to be developed to determine the effectiveness of new active-learning techniques for teaching these skills. In order for assessment to be done well, instructors must consider what learning objective they are assessing, clarify why they are assessing and what benefits will derive from the process, consider whether they will conduct assessments during or after the learning process, and specifically address how they will design solid assessments of active learning best suited to their needs. The various types of assessment for active-learning strategies include written and oral debriefing, observations, peer- and self-assessment, and presentations and demonstrations. In addition, there are several different measurement tools for recording the assessment data, including checklists and student surveys. A final aspect to consider when examining assessment techniques and measurement tools is the construction of an effective rubric. Ultimately, further research is warranted in the learning that occurs through the use of active-learning techniques in contrast with traditional teaching methods, the “portability” of active-learning exercises across cultures, and the use of newer media—such as internet and video content—as it is increasingly incorporated into the classroom.
Lynn M. Kuzma
There is a body of evidence that suggests that young Americans are disengaged from communal life. Since the late 1980s, college students have been described as materialistic, self-absorbed, and self-interested, acting without regard for community interests. Scholars consider the “me generation” as symptomatic of an eroding democratic civic culture characterized by growing apathy, resentment, even anger. This trend continues today. In order to address this, proponents of higher education have made their attempts to develop civic engagement in young minds. Civic engagement refers to activities within a community, though in the academic setting, the definition becomes much more complex. There is a belief that through participation in a community, students will develop capacities that ultimately lead them to become more active citizens, which in turn benefits not only themselves but also the community. However, higher education’s recommitment to developing students’ civic engagement should be informed by a clear notion of what civic engagement entails. In addition, a certain amount of factual knowledge is a prerequisite for becoming an engaged citizen, as civic learning involves students coming to understand the democratic processes of a community, its history, the problems it faces, and the richness of its diversity. And civic learning opportunities can be taught both in and outside of the classroom, as co-curricular learning opportunities, projects embedded in a class, or as a requirement of a general education curriculum.
Derrick L. Cogburn
With the advent of globalization, the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for socioeconomic development are changing rapidly and dramatically. These skills include the need to better understand how to manipulate symbolic knowledge and how to work in global virtual teams. New applications of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and new organizational models have helped to create important developments in areas such as e-commerce, e-government, and e-learning. Universities, companies, governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations have worked to develop strategies for dealing with these monumental changes, including developing “global” strategies for building networks, fostering cooperation, and expanding their geographic reach. For all these reasons, it is important to identify and evaluate new methods of teaching international affairs and studies of globalization that capitalize on the tremendous advancements in ICTs. These approaches should take advantage of lessons learned from collaboratories and cyberinfrastructure that allow diverse groups of geographically distributed learners to collaborate in ways that are at times “beyond being there,” or more interactive than if they were located in the same laboratory or seminar room. Six broad and interdisciplinary streams guide the literature leading toward these changes: knowledge creation, education, and learning; group/team dynamics; building trust in virtual teams; culture in global virtual teams; geographically distributed collaborative learning; and infrastructure for distributed collaborative learning.
Computer simulations can be defined in three categories: computational modeling simulations, human-computer simulations, and computer-mediated simulations. These categories of simulations are defined primarily by the role computers take and by the role humans take in the implementation of the simulation. The literature on the use of simulations in the international studies classroom considers under what circumstances and in what ways the use of simulations creates pedagogical benefits when compared with other teaching methods. But another issue to consider is under what circumstances and in what ways the use of computers can add (or subtract) pedagogical value when compared to other methods for implementing simulations. There are six alleged benefits of using simulation: encouraging cognitive and affective learning, enhancing student motivation, creating opportunities for longer-term learning, increasing personal efficiency, and promoting student-teacher relations. Moreover, in regard to the use of computer simulations, there are a set of good practices to consider. The first good practice emerges out of a realization of the unequal level of access to technology. The second good practice emerges from a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a computer-assisted simulation. The final and perhaps most fundamental good practice emerges from the idea that computers and technology more generally are not ends in themselves, but a means to help instructors reach a set of pedagogical goals.
Steven L. Lamy
Cooperative learning is a means of providing opportunities for students to work together in an effort to accomplish an assigned intellectual task. There are different types of cooperative learning. In formal settings, students may stay in a learning group for several sessions in order to achieve a specific task. More informal cooperative learning situations usually are temporary or ad hoc groups that are formed by professors to facilitate some form of discussion and learning. In a cooperative learning class, it is important to clearly explain the pedagogical purposes and the required procedures of the course. Instructors should explain how an active learning course works and the responsibilities students have in this kind of course. An effective cooperative learning course demands the instructor’s active participation, as they must monitor the groups, answer research questions, and generally guide the direction of the course discussions. Though there are disadvantages and criticisms against cooperative learning, the study of international relations in particular can benefit from this method. The study of international relations is defined by problems and challenges that are interdisciplinary. Students thus need to be prepared for research and problem-solving in a variety of issue areas. Cooperative learning techniques that provide for the sharing of expertise and research findings with peers provide students with skills that are critical for success in the world today.
Carolyn M. Shaw
Simulations and role-play exercises have been used in the international studies classroom for over fifty years, producing a considerable body of literature devoted to their study and evolution. From the earliest use of simulations in the classroom, instructors have sought to identify and characterize the benefits of these techniques for student learning. Scholars note, in particular, the value of simulations in achieving specific learning objectives that are not easily conveyed through lecture format. More recent writings have focused on what specific lessons can be conveyed through different types of exercises, and have included detailed descriptions or appendices so that others can use these exercises. And as simulations and role-play exercises have become more widely incorporated into the classroom, a growing body of literature has also provided instructions on how to custom design simulations to fit instructors’ specific needs. Although initial evaluations of the effectiveness of simulations were methodologically weak and flawed by research design, sampling, or other methodological problems, newer studies have become more sophisticated. Rather than simply arguing that simulations are (or are not) a better teaching tool than traditional class formats, there is greater recognition that simulations are simply one technique of many that can promote student learning. Scholars, however, are still seeking to understand under what conditions simulations and role-play exercises are especially beneficial in the classroom.
The intellectual foundation of modern experiential learning theory owes much of its roots to John Dewey’s educational philosophy. In his seminal 1916 work, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, Dewey argued that human knowledge and education are rooted in inquiry, which in turn is rooted in human experience. His ideas, along with those of Jean Piaget, formed the basis of D. A. Kolb’s 1984 book Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Kolb’s theory of learning, which he formulated to better understand student learning styles, became the starting point for the debate on the use of experiential learning. Kolb introduced a four-stage cycle to explain learning: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. His framework has been adopted to investigate how learning occurs inside the classroom. However, numerous criticisms have been leveled against Kolb’s learning styles approach. One type of criticism focuses on the importance of learning style on student learning, and another focuses on the construct validity, internal validity, and reliability of Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI). There are several avenues for improving the use of experiential learning techniques, such as the integration of service-learning into the classroom and an institutional commitment to designing a complete curriculum.
Raymond C. Miller
Interdisciplinarity is an analytically reflective study of the methodological, theoretical, and institutional implications of implementing interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research. Interdisciplinarians are those who engage in the scholarly field of interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinary approaches in the social sciences, meanwhile, involve the application of insights and perspectives from more than one conventional discipline to the understanding of social phenomena. The concept of interdisciplinarity gained prominence during the early 1970s to solve the problem of how knowledge can be unified and what the implications of such unity are for teaching and research in the universities. Though there were many differences between scholars, they all shared the thought that the scientific enterprise had become less effective due to disciplinary fragmentation, and that a countermovement for the unification of knowledge was the proper response. There are many ways of differentiating between types of interdisciplinary approaches, and they can be classified as multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and transdisciplinary. Multidisciplinary approaches involve the simple act of juxtaposing parts of several conventional disciplines in an effort to get a broader understanding of some common theme or problem. Cross-disciplinary approaches involve real interaction across the conventional disciplines, though the extent of communication and thus combination, synthesis, or integration of concepts and/or methods varies considerably. Transdisciplinary approaches, meanwhile, involve articulated conceptual frameworks that seek to transcend the more limited worldviews of the specialized conventional disciplines.
Gretchen J. Van Dyke
The United Nations and the European Union are extraordinarily complex institutions that pose considerable challenges for international studies faculty who work to expose their students to the theoretical, conceptual, and factual material associated with both entities. One way that faculty across the academic spectrum are bringing the two institutions “alive” for their students is by utilizing in-class and multi-institutional simulations of both the UN and the EU. Model United Nations (MUN) and Model European Union simulations are experiential learning tools used by an ever-increasing number of students. The roots of Model UN simulations can be traced to the student-led Model League of Nations simulations that began at Harvard University in the 1920s. Current secondary school MUN offerings include two initiatives, Global Classrooms and the Montessori Model Union Nations (Montessori-MUN). Compared to the institutionalized MUNs, Model EU programs are relatively young. There are three long-standing, distinct, intercollegiate EU simulations in the United States: one in New York, one in the Mid-Atlantic region, and one in the Mid-West. As faculty continue to engage their students with Model UN and Model EU simulations, new scholarship is expected to continue documenting their experiences while emphasizing the value of active and experiential learning pedagogies. In addition, future research will highlight new technologies as critical tools in the Model UN and Model EU preparatory processes and offer quantitative data that supports well-established qualitative conclusions about the positive educational value of these simulations.
Craig Douglas Albert
International relations (IR) theory is favorably described in almost every syllabus since 1930. The most important questions asked were: “What is theory?” and “Is there a reason for IR theory?” The most widely used texts all focus on the first question and suggest, among others, that IR theory is “a way of making the world or some part of it more intelligible or better understood.” We can gauge where the teaching of IR theory is today by analyzing a sample of syllabi from IR scholars serving on the Advisory Board of the International Studies Association’s (ISA) Compendium Project. These syllabi reveal some trends. Within the eight undergraduate syllabi, for example, a general introduction to IR theory is taught in four separate classes. Among the theories discussed in different classes are realism, classical realism, neo-realism, Marxism and neo-Marxism, world-systems theory, imperialism, constructivism, and international political economy. Novel methods for teaching IR theory include the use of films, active learning, and experiential learning. The diversity of treatments of IR theory implied by the ISA syllabi provides evidence that, with the exception of the proliferation of perspectives, relatively little has changed since the debates of the late 1930s. The discipline lacks much semblance of unity regarding whether, and how, to offer IR theory to students. Nevertheless, there have been improvements that are likely to continue in terms of the ways in which theories may be presented.