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.
Ralph G. Carter
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.
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.