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Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

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

Carolyn M. Shaw and Amanda Rosen

Simulations and games 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 these techniques in the classroom, instructors have sought to identify and characterize the benefits of these tools for student learning. Scholars note, in particular, the value of simulations and games 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. As simulations and games have become more widely incorporated into the classroom, a growing body of literature has 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 games are especially beneficial in the classroom.

Article

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

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.

Article

Pedagogical objectives and educational outcomes play a significant role in foreign policy analysis. The actor-centered approach of foreign policy analysis gives students the unique opportunity to place themselves in the shoes of decision makers and to understand the different constraints, both domestic and international, that influence the policies adopted by decision makers. In other words, foreign policy analysis can have two functions: to teach students about the processes by which foreign policy is made, or the substance of the foreign policies of various countries, and to enhance students’ ability to imagine the perspectives of others. Whether foreign policy analysis does, in fact, manage to develop this ability is an empirical question that also depends on the course emphasis and pedagogies employed. In this sense, pedagogy does not only mean excellent teaching, but also systematic investigation of teaching methods and techniques, student learning outcomes, educational assessment, and curriculum development. The literature on foreign policy analysis, pedagogy, and curriculum emphasizes active learning strategies and the need for clearly articulated learning objectives for the curriculum as a whole and the place of specific courses within it. Examples of active learning pedagogies are case teaching, simulations, and problem-based learning. Despite some very worthwhile research that has been done, there are still some gaps that need to be addressed. One is the lack of empirical work that helps evaluate the merits of the various teaching strategies in foreign policy analysis, and another is the inconsistent findings produced by the empirical studies that do exist.

Article

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.