Friday, February 19, 2010

Conferences Are Not Just for Research

While the big conferences like this one--the annual meeting of the International Studies Association--seems focused on the presentation of research, and, if not that, then networking, it is actually also for helping our teaching.  Really.  In the course of events, I have had several interactions that will shape what I use next fall for both of the courses that I am teaching: Intro to International Relations and the IR of Ethnic Conflict.

For the former, I have been using the same text forever--a "reader" that consists of articles by different political scientists, providing different perspectives of various theoretical debates.  I think I am going to move, dare I say it, to a textbook that is a co-written volume that presents a thematic approach to IR that is very much akin to my own.  Not identical, but similar.  Doing so would force me to a significant amount of work--changing both the order of my lectures but also my content.  Why bother?  I get good evals right now and I get my stuff across pretty well.  Because I have not really re-thought this class in a while and changing the text will force me out of my comfort zone.

For the latter, an upper division class on the topic that is been the focal point of my research until recently, I need to re-think the course as well.  I have not taught it in a few years, and meeting a prof here and chatting with him about his work made me realize that his book will provide a different take on international organizations and their impact on ethnic conflict. 

If I remember, I will let y'all know how these experiments play out.  The good news for both classes is that if they fail miserably, I can always revert to the tried and true.  Wish me luck!

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