This is an excerpt from Signature Pedagogy in International Relations. Download the book for free from E-International Relations.
This chapter discusses signature pedagogies in international relations (IR) and introduces three alternative active learning techniques that are used to teach challenging topics in the classroom to students. The first technique is the strategy game, which is designed to encourage active student participation and help them understand key concepts. The second technique is a simulation that aims to have students, as representatives of states, experience a hypothetical international crisis and understand difficulties in conflict resolution scenarios. Simulations are generally inspired by certain real-world crises and are developed with a touch of entertainment. The third technique is using metaphors or stories. The aim is to explain the literature on “sciences” and “methods” in IR as a discipline using a fictional story and the use of certain metaphors. The chapter first looks at existing teaching techniques in academic literature. It lists and discusses various “game / simulation designs” created by scientists in the field. Second, the three techniques are presented as part of my signature pedagogy using examples from previously used cases. This part describes the design of each technique in a step-by-step format so that they are replicable for readers. Third, this chapter discusses the applicability of each technique. Together, these three approaches produce fruitful results, especially when applied to policy and IR students. The chapter ends with a series of recommendations on when, with whom, and how to use each technique.
IR is a content-rich discipline with no clear disciplinary boundaries. This variation and breadth make it a challenging task to decide what an IR signature pedagogy should look like. There are certainly many similarities and differences in the way IR as a profession is taught around the world. Like most social science disciplines, IR training uses conventional or traditional pedagogical techniques. After summarizing my perspective on traditional methods of IR teaching, this chapter takes a look at current and innovative techniques. The chapter analyzes active learning and other alternative practices in IR training and evaluates the ability of these techniques to inform my signature pedagogy.
The chapter first deals with the definition of signature pedagogy in order to discuss what an IR signature pedagogy can look like. Here I stress that what we teach as IR and how we teach it are closely related. The section argues that these two questions need to be considered together when considering IR as a profession. Accordingly, the first section combines an assessment of the former question of what we teach as IR with the latter question of how we teach IR. The section covers both conventional and non-conventional techniques used in IR training and includes examples from the academic literature on participatory learning practices used by IR educators around the world. The second section discusses the use of three alternative educational techniques: (1) strategy games, (2) simulations, and (3) storage. The second section also shares my own teaching and learning experiences, as well as suggestions for using any alternative technique. This chapter also evaluates existing active learning practices by discussing the advantages of each technique and making suggestions for overcoming certain disadvantages. It concludes with a discussion of how my teaching approaches can contribute to a more comprehensive IR signature pedagogy. In this way, this chapter is intended to complement the existing methods of teaching IR as a profession.
Signature pedagogy and IR education
The IR discipline is very rich in content. Accordingly, the curricula of the IR degree programs contain a variety of topics and courses. Most IR undergraduate programs tend to start with certain introductory social and political science courses in the first few years and then move on to field-specific courses in the last few years. IR-specific courses cover various forms of theoretical, historical and methodological topics to provide students with a toolbox for analyzing world politics. Once the knowledge base is established with the required courses, students are offered a selection of subject-specific courses that depend on the expertise of the professors in each department. Required courses are mostly similar in many departments around the world, but the extensive scope of the term IR usually results in a picturesque scene of various electives in different IR departments. There are no clear boundaries to the IR discipline. Indeed, everyone understands that there are limits to the discipline, but most of them are unsure of where those limits are or how to set them. This unlimited (or multi-, inter-, transdisciplinary) nature of IR provides educators with important maneuverability in their job of teaching IR. This maneuverability affects both what we teach as an IR and how we teach it. Hence, both of us are instructing us to open a discussion on signature pedagogy.
Signature Education is “a type of teaching that organizes the fundamental way in which future practitioners are trained for their new professions … These are the types of teaching that come to mind when we first look at the preparation of members of certain Thinking about occupations ”(Shulman 2005, 52). In each area, signature pedagogies are being developed that educators use to teach what they think are the basic requirements of their respective profession. Indeed, every profession has its own signature pedagogy, where “beginners are taught critical aspects of the three basic dimensions of professional work – to thinkto To runand to Act with Integrity”(Shulman 2005, 52). These basic dimensions are closely related to what we teach and how we convey the concepts and content we want to convey. In the IR discipline, an important aspect for educators to think about is the skills and knowledge that need to be transferred in class to prepare students for their careers. This requires us to decide what IR means as a profession. Here, the above-mentioned features of the discipline make things difficult, since graduates from IR courses are not geared towards a single profession. Rather than pointing students to a single occupation, we generally transfer main and core topics as a toolbox and leave it to the students to decide on their subject area. What we teach at the core and beyond becomes very important as we let the students build their profession at the end. In terms of signature pedagogy, what we teach is followed by how we teach it. As already mentioned, signature education is more about how educators transfer knowledge than about what content they teach (Lüdert 2016, 1).
IR training, like most other social science disciplines, incorporates traditional methods for design, assessment and classroom activities. Traditional methods generally follow similar routines:
- Design a curriculum that contains important information about the course
- Develop a weekly course schedule with the required readings (textbook chapters or articles).
- Use these readings to give regular lectures in class.
- Add a component for student participation (participation, individual or group presentations).
- Evaluate performance through exams and written assignments.
With this traditional approach, the level of knowledge and skills transfer in the class depends on the performance of the educator and his or her ability to use classroom technology. Indeed, educational techniques are abundant and usually based on the educator’s creativity. Over time, new and innovative approaches have also been developed. In particular, as technological skills have increased, scientists have begun to look for alternative ways to impart knowledge and skills to students. One goal of these innovative approaches was to increase student participation and develop more interactive routines in and outside of class. Here the topics are conveyed through a series of activities to train students through active participation. Active learning techniques have increasingly become an important part of signature pedagogy in IR.
Active learning is defined as “an educational process that takes place by engaging students with the content through different types of thought-provoking activities to encourage active thinking” (Alves, Silva and Barbosa 2019, 1). The educator uses novel approaches including simulations, games, case studies and other innovative techniques to encourage and monitor student participatory learning. The process shifts the educator from mere lecturer to learning coordinator. Of course, the balance of this shift between instructor and coordinator is determined by the preference and style of teaching, creativity, skills, and institutional and technical capabilities of the educator.
The most common technique is to use simulations in the classroom. The academic literature offers numerous examples of its application to simulations (Shaw and Switky 2018; Shaw 2004; Asal and Blake 2006; Asal and Kratoville 2013; de Freitas 2006; Wedig 2010). Simulations have been used to teach various IR topics including international human rights (Killie 2002), peacekeeping (Shaw 2004), diplomacy and the United Nations (Chasek 2005), international law (Ambrosio 2006), and theories of international political economy (Boyer , Trumbore) and Fricke 2006), international negotiations (Shaw 2006), international trade (Switky and Avilés 2007), humanitarian intervention (Switky 2014), European Union (Elias 2014) and decision-making (DiCicco 2014). In particular, Killie (2002, 271-272) encourages students to prepare a draft international human rights treaty to simulate international negotiations and encourage student interest in various IR concepts including “diplomacy, dual level games, international law , Human rights and group decision making. “Chasek (2005) offers a crisis simulation based on multilateral diplomacy in which the participants try to solve a hypothetical crisis of the UN Security Council. Similarly, Switky (2014) uses a crisis simulation to solve the Teaching students the difficulty of making decisions in “humanitarian interventions.” Ambrosio (2006, 159–160) uses Problem Based Learning (PBL) techniques to teach international law, “in which students take roles in a mock war crimes trial take over. ”In the sham study, the author uses a real case and designs a hypothetical study to (1) improve students’ understanding of the material, (2) gain hands-on experience of the difficulties associated with the interpretation and application of international law. “And (3) to increase student interest in the topic (Ambrosio 2006, 160). Boyer, Trumbore and Fricke (2006) use a family card game “Pit” to help students understand abstract theories and concepts of international political economy and to increase their interest in course material.
The scientists also use games in the class (Alves, Silva and Barbosa 2019), mock experiments (Ambrosio 2006), zombie simulations (Horn, Rubin and Schouenborg 2016; Drezner 2014), fiction (Boaz 2020) and novels, series and popular films like the Lord of the Rings (Ruane and James 2008; 2012), Harry Potter (Nexon and Neumann 2006), Game of Thrones (Young and Ko 2019), Star Trek and Star Wars (Dyson 2015; Campbell and Gokcek 2019) and others (Weber 2014 ; 2010; 2001). Through such approaches, IR educators aim to both encourage student participation and make it easier for students to understand challenging topics in IR.
Teaching Challenging IR Topics: Three Alternatives
Active learning tools are used by educators to (1) engage students in crisis-like situations and introduce them to the practical side of the profession, and (2) help students understand abstract theoretical and philosophical topics using metaphors and examples from the To understand practice. Each technique, as discussed in this section, has advantages and disadvantages. Here I find it useful to group these techniques into three teaching approaches: (1) strategy games, (2) crisis simulations, and (3) storage. These techniques assist educators in teaching a wide variety of complex topics. For example, as part of my own signature pedagogy, I have actively used strategy games to teach about collective action dilemmas, security dilemmas and theories of IR, crisis simulations so that students can experience certain international political crises that require negotiating skills and conflict resolution, and coordination of summits and storage, to teach debates on philosophy of science in IR theory.
The first technique, strategy games, has a specific purpose: to learn and teach IR in a fun way (see for example Thomas 2002; Freitas 2006; Boyer, Trumbore and Fricke 2006). A strategy game can be defined as a teaching method that explains and introduces basic IR concepts such as security and foreign policy smoothly and quickly. It goes smoothly as the alternative actions, game rounds and the number of actors are specified and controlled by the instructor. It’s fast because there is limited waiting time between rounds and games end in around 40 minutes. These games are particularly suitable as ice breakers (to introduce the participants to each other) and as short, entertaining breaks between the lecture weeks in course design and curricula. In my classes I generally prefer an adapted version of the “Isle of Ted Simulation” designed by Glen Dale Thomas (2002). Isle of Ted is a turn-based playful simulation in which the participants represent certain actors and interact with each other according to set rules. After participants play this turn-based interactive game, the educator can cover a variety of topics in the IR, such as: B. Independence and sovereignty, complex interdependence, security dilemma, collective action dilemma, and others. An important aspect of this is monitoring the interaction of the participants during the game rounds, as each particular round of the game with different participants reveals interesting discussion points and lessons to think about.
Strategy games have certain, specific characteristics. First, these games are designed to be ready in a relatively short amount of time. Since there are only a limited number of alternative decisions and courses of action for the participants, the game begins to repeat itself after several rounds, which reduces the entertainment factor for both the participants and the educator. Second, unlike simulations in strategy games, the role of the educator is more active as he / she has to keep the participants moving and active due to the time limit. Third, the use of these games should be carefully designed so that they are both engaging and easy to understand. It should be practical and not require advanced knowledge, long readings, or lectures to prepare participants. Last but not least, the strategy game should be customized in creative and imaginative ways to be relevant to the student population. For example, the educator can change the currency denomination to “York Liras” (instead of dollars or euros), incorporate random movements into the game (such as rolling the dice or tossing a coin to determine belief), or use imaginary country names such as “Kolombistan, Tartartolia “(instead of real country names). Customizing the game this way will keep students active and not focus on being overly realistic and stale.
Strategy games are very useful for understanding key concepts of the IR (e.g. anarchy, collective action dilemma, conflict vs. cooperation, absolute vs. relative gains) and the existence of multiple actors in the IR (e.g. states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)) to mediate), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs)). As such, they are better suited as complementary educational techniques to support lectures throughout the semester. Depending on the educator’s preferences, strategy games can be used as an icebreaker in the first few weeks of a class or used occasionally during the semester to solidify and assess what knowledge has been transferred to the students. In my experience, they serve as great icebreakers, building students’ self-esteem by getting to know them and making them more comfortable participating in classroom activities throughout the semester. This technique is more suitable for young beginners who have no previous knowledge of this area or of the topics to be treated.
The second technique, crisis simulation, is usually based on a repetition of a real crisis (see, among others, Chasek 2005; Ambrosio 2006; Switky 2014). A crisis simulation in IR is an educational technique based on a scenario to create a real life inspired situation. It is used to train participants, to gain experience and to inform them about the likely behavior alternatives for solving international political crises and conflicts. It is very useful as there are many cases in IR that can be simulated using this technique (the Cold War, World War I and World War II, the Abkhazia crisis between Russia and Georgia, the economic crisis of Greece and the European Union, the establishment the European Union, etc.). The scenario is often created by an educator who is an expert in the field. Real life crises are used to (1) convey certain topics such as causes and reasons for war and conflict, and (2) illustrate and show participants how difficult it can be for practitioners in the field (heads of state, diplomats) can, politicians, IGOs and NGOs, civil society) to resolve conflicts on the ground. In this sense, crisis simulations differ from strategy games. In simulations, participation is made as realistic as possible and entertainment is not necessarily a consideration. However, in strategy games, there is a balance between teaching and entertainment, which requires more imagination and creativity. In addition, simulations aim to give participants experience by illustrating the process of crisis management, while strategy games are mainly aimed at teaching basic concepts.
Simulations have their own strict rules, but they’re not set in stone. For example, if the simulation is prepared to resolve conflicts, participants may not have the opportunity to resort to violence (declare war) until a certain turnaround. However, these rules are not as mechanical as those in strategy games. Since simulations take longer (of half a day, a full day, a few days and even longer), the educator can leave the participants up to how they should deal with the situation through diplomacy and other measures. However, in strategy games there is a time limit and the rules are usually stricter and less fluid. In simulations, it is up to the participants to decide the outcome of crisis management or conflict resolution processes. In one of the cases, for example, I expected the participants to come to a summit and resolve their differences there. However, it came as a surprise to me that the participants revealed that they had signed a secret treaty instead of using open discussion channels. This turned out to be an interesting example of what can be achieved by leaving room for the creativity of the participants. I took it as encouragement to increase student participation during the simulation flow and to give participants more space by allowing them to develop alternative, more creative approaches. Compared to strategy games, in my opinion, simulations offer the educator increased maneuvering capacity, both in terms of content and to encourage participant participation.
Typically, simulations are based on a common design that includes:
- Create teams according to class size and number of participants
- Determine the number of turns and length based on the allotted time
- Establishment of a communication platform, for example a round table, which the participants use as a summit to discuss their differences
- Prepare and distribute a strategy document for each team at the start of the game, for which the participants will use a guideline
- Establishment of an international media team through which participants receive news about each other
- Start the simulation, monitor the turn-based flow and let participants resolve the conflict
The educator usually informs the participants before the start of the simulation, monitors the course of the simulation, evaluates the simulation at the end and then deals with relevant topics. Once the educator has finalized the details of this simulation design, it will be easier to write an IR crisis simulation on any topic in international politics. While scenarios and smaller details change in different simulations, there are also certain common characteristics. First, simulations typically take longer than other techniques. Since the alternatives for the participants are not constant, the simulations do not repeat themselves after a few rounds as in strategy games. Second, the main goal of simulations is to create a realistic scenario.
Crisis simulations are not games, they were purposely developed with the aim of conveying realistic experiences from the IR profession. Last but not least, crisis simulations require thorough preparation and prior knowledge of the subject. Educators often need to assign participants selective metrics, explain rules in detail, and allow participants sufficient time to prepare for the simulation.
Simulations require more preparation time and are best used to teach older students who have prior knowledge of key concepts in IR and the case at hand. Compared to strategy games, I recommend doing simulations with relatively experienced IR students. However, the educator may prefer to prepare more detailed instructions and allow more time to prepare. Crisis simulations are great ways to introduce students to IR as a profession from different perspectives. Students experience many aspects of IR as a profession at various stages of simulation including, but not limited to, the difficulties of reaching consensus in international negotiations, the efforts required to achieve common ground in diplomacy, and the challenges in the process of peaceful resolution of disputes, the alternative possibilities of representing a state as a diplomat, the importance and role of communication and international media as well as the role of international institutions in world politics. The educator must carefully follow the simulation and take notes on the topics to be assessed at the end of the simulation. The assessment at the end of the simulation is central as the educator makes a final assessment to connect his / her observations during the simulation with the knowledge he / she wants to pass on to the students.
After all, storage is a technique that I use to teach science and methods to students with no prior knowledge of IR (see Ruane and James 2008; 2012; Nexon and Neumann 2006; Young and Ko 2019, among others). I invented a story called “The Story of Two Villages: Rationalia and Reflectia” to explain and help students understand the so-called big theoretical debates and the gap between rationalists and reflectivists in IR (Luleci and Sula 2016 ; Sula and Luleci) 2015; Sula 2019a; 2019b). The story is about people who live in two different parts of the city, their different lifestyles and the events that happen after they first meet. The story begins with the description of life in Rationalia. The residents of Rationalia have a fairly similar lifestyle and daily routine in which they build and live very similar buildings and houses. Then the story continues with residents of Reflectia who live in very different conditions. Reflecters do not have similar houses, routines or priorities, but rather enjoy the uniqueness of each resident’s life. The story continues with the first meeting of Rationalians and Reflectians and how Rationalians try to keep Reflectians out of their lives. Rationalists even build huge walls and use gatekeepers to prevent Reflectier from entering their sacred areas until a certain natural disaster (an earthquake) destroys their walls. After telling this short story, I ask students to speculate and discuss the metaphors in the story. For example, the towers of Rationalia, which represent the rationalist research programs, the huge disciplinary boundaries in IR that represent the wall, the earthquake that represents the end of the Cold War, and other metaphors that I incorporate into the story. When combined with creativity and previous readings on the subject, this technique will help the student understand and remember the classroom discussions. Just like using popular series, films, and novels, using storification and metaphors can also help educators simplify the subjects and pass knowledge on to their students.
I use this technique to transfer knowledge about complex theoretical topics in IR to the students through simplification and use of metaphors. Storage depends heavily on the creativity of the educator. I suggest that, before creating a story, the educator thinks about whether the metaphors he / she uses in the story really represent the knowledge he / she wants to convey to the students. Based on the feedback I received from students, on certain occasions I realized that I was telling “The Story of Two Villages: Rationalia and Reflectia” in a way that directs students to one side of the debate more than the other to support . Since this was not my intention, I had to explain to the students that I do not support any of these theoretical positions more than the other. Because of that feedback, I had to readjust myself and think about how to tell the story in the classroom. Therefore, it is an important aspect of this technique to carefully evaluate what knowledge has been passed on to students. If the course includes reading material on complex theoretical topics, the instructor may ask students to read the material before telling the story. After telling the story in class, give students additional time to reflect on reading and evaluate knowledge transfer by discussing the metaphors used in the story. This allows the educator to assess the level of knowledge transfer and check whether he has transferred unintended positions to the students.
The plethora of alternative educational techniques helps educators formulate innovative, participatory and efficient methods to teach IR as a profession. Indeed, the usefulness of any technique depends on how the educator designs their educational profile and what they understand as IR signature pedagogy. In my experience, each approach has advantages and disadvantages in teaching and learning IR. Eines der gemeinsamen Ziele der oben diskutierten Ansätze ist es, Wissen und Erfahrung durch einen vereinfachten und unterhaltsamen Prozess auf den Teilnehmer zu übertragen.
Bei der Anwendung dieser Techniken sind einige wichtige Aspekte zu beachten: (1) Der Pädagoge kann einige wichtige Details des Themas übersehen, das er / sie beim Versuch, diese Techniken anzuwenden, behandeln möchte, und (2) möglicherweise noch wichtiger: Der Erzieher kann die falsche Nachricht an die Teilnehmer weitergeben. Beide Aspekte erfordern, dass der Pädagoge den Grad des Wissens und der Erfahrung, die auf den Teilnehmer übertragen werden, sorgfältig bewertet und die Lücken ausfüllt und Informationen korrigiert, wenn sie identifiziert werden. Ich habe die Erfahrung gemacht, dass der Pädagoge leicht unbeabsichtigte Botschaften an Teilnehmer weitergeben kann, die sie zu fanatischen Unterstützern einer bestimmten Denkweise im IR (Realisten, Liberale, Rationalisten usw.) oder zu nationalistischen Unterstützern eines der Länder in den Simulationen machen. Dies gilt insbesondere dann, wenn der Teilnehmer keine Vorkenntnisse zum Thema hat. Daher bevorzuge ich die Verwendung dieser Techniken, nachdem die Studierenden die Grundlagen des Kurses verstanden haben (normalerweise nach einigen Vorlesungswochen während des gesamten Semesters).
Insbesondere Strategiespiele sind großartige Eisbrecher im Klassenzimmer für Studenten, die sich gegenseitig kennenlernen, bevor sie den Kurs während des gesamten Semesters fortsetzen. Andere zwei Techniken eignen sich besser, um bestimmte Themen im Detail zu erklären. Da Krisensimulationen eine vorherige Schulung erfordern, ist es besser, sie in den letzten Wochen des Semesters zu verwenden. Sie können sogar als Prüfungen verwendet werden, um das Wissen und die Erfahrung der Schüler am Ende des Kurses zu bewerten und zu bewerten. Die Speicherung kann je nach Kreativität des Erziehers über den gesamten Kurs verteilt werden. Ich benutze Geschichten und Metaphern als Diskussionsstarter direkt nach Vorträgen und zu anderen Zeiten, wenn nötig.
Die in diesem Kapitel behandelten Bildungstechniken sind sehr nützlich, da ihre Struktur angepasst werden kann, ihr Design aktualisiert werden kann und ihre Anwendung variabel ist. Während diese Techniken die aktive Teilnahme fördern, ist es der Pädagoge, der die Unterschrift am Ende setzt. Was der Pädagoge lehrt und wie er es lehrt, bestimmt die Definition von IR als Beruf. Angesichts der Fülle alternativer Bildungstechniken im aktuellen Stand der Literatur ist es ein guter Zeitpunkt, um mit der Erörterung von Signaturpädagogiken im IR zu beginnen.
 Siehe auch verschiedene andere Beispiele für Simulation, problembasiertes Lernen und aktives Lernen: Switky (2014); Horn, Rubin und Schouenborg (2016); Zappile, Beers und Raymond (2017); Kempston und Thomas (2014); und Thomas (2002).
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Young, Laura D, and Ñusta Carranza Ko. 2019. Game of Thrones and Theories of International Relations. Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books.
Zappile, Tina M., Daniel J. Beers, and Chad Raymond. 2017. “Promoting Global Empathy and Engagement through Real-Time Problem-Based Simulations.” International Studies Perspectives 18 (February): 194–210. https://doi.org/10.1093/isp/ekv024.
Further reading on e-international relations