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2011 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference Track Summaries

Track: Internationalizing the Curriculum I: In-Class and Discipline-Wide Strategies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2011

Kristen Hudak
Affiliation:
Bentley University
Mark Sachleben
Affiliation:
Shippensburg University
Deborah E. Ward
Affiliation:
Rutgers University–New Brunswick
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Extract

This track served not only to continue the discussion of the importance of internationalizing the curriculum, but also as an impetus for laying out a framework to do so. The papers and subsequent discussions in this track highlighted both the challenges and the opportunities for internationalization in the classroom and the discipline.

Type
The Teacher
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2011

This track served not only to continue the discussion of the importance of internationalizing the curriculum, but also as an impetus for laying out a framework to do so. The papers and subsequent discussions in this track highlighted both the challenges and the opportunities for internationalization in the classroom and the discipline.

Through various actions, the APSA has acknowledged that internationalizing the political science curriculum is a responsibility we have to our students. Track moderator Deborah Ward provided a summary of the APSA's actions to date, including work conducted by the Task Force on Internationalization and the Teaching and Learning Committee, and efforts made to organize the Internationalizing the Curriculum tracks at the TLC and plenary panels at three APSA Annual Meetings. In an increasingly globalized world, with which our students are expected to interact in new ways, it becomes critical to adjust both what is being taught and how it is being taught. An international perspective is necessary to provide our students with the skills and experiences they need to succeed after graduation, and to give them opportunities that other generations have not had or have not recognized. Moreover, as universities seek to attract foreign students, there is a need to recognize and make relevant the global diversity in our classrooms. As students from around the world strive to study here in the United States, we have a responsibility to provide them with the best globalized education possible.

Discussions in the track also identified the challenges that come along with any efforts to internationalize the curriculum. We recognize that many institutional and budgetary constraints exist in higher learning. As a discipline, we must account for differences in how internationalization may play out in the subfields of political theory, comparative politics, international relations, and American politics. Finally, and perhaps most critically, there is the question of determining how to internationalize assessment so that it adds value to students' education.

That said, internationalizing the curriculum presents exciting opportunities. Papers presented in this track assessed creative and valuable ideas for making international issues more accessible and relevant to students. These suggestions ranged from incorporating new readings into the curriculum and adopting student-led approaches to using media in the classroom and exploring service learning opportunities. The papers presented reflected these dynamics and synergistic opportunities. Presenters related their backgrounds, the realities of different institutions, and context-specific problems faced by teachers of political science.

Gerson Moreno-Riano, Phillip Hamilton, and Lee Trepanier (“Statesmanship and Democracy in a Global and Comparative Context”) noted that the successful teacher must understand the context of his or her pupils. Thus, understanding the local context is important in bridging a student's understanding of global context. The authors argued that teaching statesmanship and democracy in a comparative context (i.e., using the local to make connections to the global) helps students to better appreciate both concepts. Mark Sachleben (“Getting Students to Think about the World: Techniques for Making the World Accessible in General Education Courses”) argued that some students might be isolated from and resistant to international perspectives and described attempts to lure students into internationalization by designing assignments in which students research and plan an international educational trip as a method to “back-door” internationalization. He concluded that the current method of teaching international politics by emphasizing conflict, human rights violations, and the negative aspects of the international system was often an inhibiting factor to internationalizing students.

Two papers, one by Jon Carlson and James Ortez (“Using Children's TV to Teach Globalization: Dora, Diego, Kai-Lan, and the Global Generation”) and the other by Christopher Cook (“American Students, African Conflicts, and Hollywood: The Advantages and Unintended Consequences of Using Film to Teach African Politics”), argued that the use of film and media in the classroom could help students observe the effects of global interaction while developing analytical skills. Carlson and Ortez proposed using children's television series, such as Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lin, to explore the globalization of media and the interchange of global cultural values. Cook described an approach using film that introduces students to a topic that few understand or appreciate: African politics. By using several films, he hoped to breakdown stereotypical views of Africa and promote a critical understanding of the forces shaping the continent.

Other teacher-scholars focused on the role that students can play in educating themselves. Ann Marie Mezzell (“Learning by Teaching: A Student-Led Approach to Internationalizing the Discipline”) demonstrated how student-led education can be effective at a resource-limited institution. Although not arguing that students should drive the curriculum, Mezzell demonstrated how allowing students to build competencies and interests in an African politics course created a snowball effect of interest among other members of the course. Laura Brunell (“Building Global Civic Skills: A Class-Based Service Learning Approach”) described a way to capture students' excitement and interest to “do something” as a way of motivating both learning and service. Brunell's project used the teacher as a servant leader (facilitating, not leading) to help students raise awareness and educate a larger community on human trafficking as both a global and a local issue. Brunell found that the project made students feel more connected to the local and global community.

The paper presentations concluded with a consideration of the challenges of internationalization from various perspectives. Michael Jon Stoil, a professor at the University of Guam, discussed the challenges of teaching American government to students who did not enjoy the same rights as other American students (“Multicultural Political Thought and the Purpose of Political Theory Courses”). Furthermore, Stoil pointed out the need, particularly in light of the cultural and ethnic background of Guam, to incorporate a number of non-Western thinkers into the canon of political philosophy to demonstrate relevancy and broaden the intellectual horizons of students. Julia M. Lau Bertrand and Ji-Young Lee (“Asian Perspectives on Teaching International Relations to Undergraduates in the U.S.”) highlighted the need to diversify the international relations curriculum, particularly for students who come to American universities from an international background. These teacher-scholars argued that international relations as it is currently taught focuses on European historical events and an “us-versus-them” paradigm that does little to explain current international politics, particularly when the audience is an international student body. Meanwhile, Gale A. Mattox (“Internationalizing the Curriculum for Future Officers”) focused on a completely different type of student body: cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy. Mattox described the process of internationalization at the Academy, particularly in light of the post–September 11 context. Although she experienced resistance to internationalizing the curriculum, the needs of the future officer corps were demonstrated by the demands of the war in Afghanistan, with the lack of languages and cultural awareness among the future officers emphasizing the need for change.

The discussions that stemmed from these papers highlighted important opportunities for the discipline as well, and recommendations include the creation of new APSA membership sections, the development of globalized textbooks across the subfields, resource sharing, the creation of learning objectives and standards for the high school level, the development of benchmarks for self-assessment, the collection of empirical evidence to drive the push for internationalization, and the sponsorship of a short course at the APSA Annual Meeting. The track concluded that in addition to striving to create a strong working definition of internationalization, an APSA working group should be formed with the goal of developing both clear standards for institutions and departments and a repository of resources. Based on track discussions, four broad themes were identified that lay out a framework for both defining what is meant by internationalizing the curriculum and establishing clear goals and objectives.

First, an internationalized curriculum should provide context. In this sense, the curriculum should provide students with a global awareness and the understanding that by knowing others, they can better know themselves. It should promote a better understanding of and empathy for the global community while teaching the critical evaluation skills and information necessary for the kind of real-world experiences they may face (whether these experiences be studying, traveling, working, or serving abroad).

Second, internationalization demands a reconsideration of perspective. This reconsideration means correcting the perception that globalization equals Americanization and incorporating non-Western authors and approaches into the canon. We have a responsibility to correct biases and provide a more well-rounded education to better equip students for the realities of the world beyond their institution.

Third, internationalization needs to focus on appeal, accessibility, and relevancy. In many ways, and often by necessity, the study of international politics is the study of conflict. Moreover, many students come to university with limited international experience, even in their secondary education coursework. Thus, there is a need to make the international or “foreign” more accessible and positive. While context and perspective add depth to students' global understanding, this component aims to add breadth.

Finally, internationalization provides an opportunity to connect the global and local. It is important to make students aware of the interactions between what goes on internationally and what happens in their own neighborhoods. In many ways, this approach is not simply to study the international world, but to actively engage in it. This aspect in particular lends itself to experiential learning that is based on the principle of “think globally, act locally.” In keeping with this principle, we can help our students access the world by helping them understand that they do not necessarily have to go abroad to have an international experience.

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