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.
Although instructors are increasingly adopting the practices of online engagement in the field of international studies, there are few discussions in the disciplinary literature of its methods, advantages and disadvantages. Online engagement can be considered as a type of class participation that takes place on the Internet. It refers to engagement between groups of students and an instructor, as well as engagement among students. Online engagement activities can be integrated into fully-online courses, or they may supplement in-class participation in traditional courses., There are five common methods that can be used to create online engagement among students: online discussion boards, class blogs, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, wikis, and online simulations. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. For each there are case studies in the literature, and best practices can be summarized. Online engagement should not be technology-driven; rather, it should be integrated with the course content and learning outcomes. Instructors should craft assignments in ways that encourage creative and critical thinking, and should take into account the particular problems that arise in the absence of face-to-face interaction. Online engagement activities should be chosen to mitigate some of the issues with traditional classroom activities, and/or develop novel skills that are relevant to the 21st-century economy. These activities should be accessible to all—including, but not restricted to, students with disabilities. Instructors and institutions should also be aware of ethical and legal issues, such as privacy, and the ownership of the data generated by online engagement activities by users.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Robert J. Beck and Henry F. Carey
The international law (IL) course offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in classroom debate on crucial topics ranging from the genocide in Darfur, the Israeli–Palestinian issue, or peace processes in Sri Lanka. A well-designed IL course can help students to appreciate their own preconceptions and biases and to develop a more nuanced and critical sense of legality. During the Cold War, IL became increasingly marginalized as a result of the perceived failure of international institutions to avert World War II and the concurrent ascent of realism as IR’s predominant theoretical paradigm. Over the past two decades, however, as IL’s profile has soared considerably, political scientists and students have taken a renewed interest in the subject. Today, IL teaching/study remains popular in law schools. As a general practice, most instructors of IL, both in law schools or undergraduate institutions, begin their course designs by selecting readings on basic legal concepts and principles. Once the basic subject matter and associated reading assignments have been determined, instructors typically move on to develop their syllabi, which may cover a variety of topics such as interdisciplinary methods, IL theory, cultural relativism, formality vs informality, identity politics, law and economics/public choice, feminism, legal realism, and reformism/modernism. There are several innovative approaches for teaching IL, including moot courts, debates, simulations, clinical learning, internships, legal research training, and technology-enhanced teaching. Another important component of IL courses is assessment of learning outcomes, and a typical approach is to administer end-of-semester essay-based examinations.
Jeffrey S. Lantis, Kent J. Kille, and Matthew Krain
The literature on active teaching and learning in international studies has developed significantly in recent decades. The philosophy behind active teaching approaches focuses on the goal of empowering students and promoting knowledge retention through engagement and experiential learning. Teacher-scholars in many different disciplines have contributed to a wide and increasingly deep literature on teaching with purpose. They identify best practices, including the importance of designing exercises that have clear educational objectives, exploring examples and alternative ways of engaging students, detailing clear procedures, and implementing assessment protocols. Examples of popular and successful active teaching and learning approaches include teaching with case studies and problem-based learning in international studies, where students confront the complexities of an issue or puzzle, and reason through potential solutions. Other instructors employ structured debates in the classroom, where students are assigned common reading materials and then develop arguments on one side or another of the debate in order to critically examine issues. More teachers are engaging students through use of alternative texts like literature and films, where reading historical narratives, memoirs, or even graphic novels may help capture student interest and promote critical thinking and reflection. In addition, simulations and games remain very popular—from simple in-class game theory exercises to semester-long role-playing simulations of international diplomacy. Studies show that all of these approaches, when implemented with clear educational objectives and intentionality, can promote student learning, interest, and retention of knowledge and perspectives. Finally, teacher-scholars have begun to embrace the importance of assessment and thoughtful reflection on the effectiveness of active teaching and learning techniques for the international studies classroom. Evidence regarding the achievement of learning outcomes, or potential limitations, can help inform improvements in experiential learning program design for future iterations.