Human rights education (HRE) is a set of educational and pedagogical learning methods aimed at informing people and training them in their human rights. The earliest foundation of HRE is found under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which guarantees the right to education. HRE became a widespread concept in the 1990s with the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 on the UN Decade for Human Rights Education from 1995 to 2004. With this decade, all UN member states agreed to undertake measures to promote and incorporate HRE in the formal and non-formal education sectors. However, toward the end of the UN Decade it was clear that only a few governments had complied with these requests. Instead, most of the promotional work for HRE was done by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs, foundations, academic institutions, and international organizations have edited and published most of the literature in the field of HRE over the past four decades. Publication figures estimate over 2000 publications since 1965, and the number is growing, particularly in the non-English speaking world. Most materials focus on a particular human rights issue such as gender, children, torture, or freedom rights. In the future, HRE is expected to be more local and community based as well as more target group–orientated.
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.
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.