We make our students work in groups to learn from each other right?
Michael Brintnall has done amazing things for the APSA conference in a way that few appear to realize. There are, in fact, working groups at APSA, and although I was uncertain what might be helpful about attending one…I quickly learned.
“Understanding Terrorist Change” was the working group to which I assigned myself. At first we stood around, admittedly some of us had other papers written, and were somewhat uncertain as to what exactly we needed to do.
Our moderator treated the first meeting like a social. He told us to go out and listen, talk, and report back on the last day about what we saw and heard. Then we ended the formal part of the meeting. And the magic began…..We began to talk, and talk, and talk. What we found in our first meeting, was a vast spectrum of scholars who had expertise or curiosity for some part of thinking about the title.
In our second meeting we managed to synthesize the panels we all observed and in doing so capitalized on the multiple eyes and ears in the rooms. Rather than having to pick and choose what I might find interesting, we got to distill what was being presented at all the APSA panels concerning terrorism.
From here we talked more. We all became excited about the collaboration and contributions each member had to offer. We resolved to create an edited volume of papers that celebrated the interdisciplinarity, the vast array of perspectives, and approaches. Moreover we agreed that our moderator would assign us a set of definitions from which to begin our work. (Please do this, it will help create a cohesive project)
In short, something actually productive, collaborative, and important came out of the APSA working group.
More importantly, also in the room were professors of classes on terrorism, seeking to bring home the insights generated from the working group. They were tasked with developing syllabi that rest on the forefront of of research, rather than exemplifying the coattails of a dusty old literature.
The working group. What a novel idea…. It seems that teaching has taught us once again, how to learn from one another and it took Michael Britnall to show us that.
Next year, make a working group, or join one. It will make your APSA worth it.