Getting into blogging

The magic of blogging

Hilariously, on a day when I find myself suddenly confronting my self-imposing deadline for posting here, I find that both time and inspiration are in short supply.

Fortunately, this weekend saw a meeting of the UACES graduate forum, talking about how to get into, and make use of, social media.

Rather than re-hash the various content, I’ll direct you to the #UACESdta hashtag for inputs from various people who know (and me) on things to think about and deal with.

Reassuringly, the main message was a positive one, stressing the value of connecting to new and diverse audiences, generating ideas and debate, and the personal value of writing more regularly.

At the same time, the costs of ‘doing’ social media have to be recognised: I’ve certainly encountered some of those, but I’m going to be seeing if I can get some guest posts together on this.

And as I sign off, from the floor of the train carriage heading into an event, I’ll note that opportunity costs cut both ways.

Reminder: International Teaching and Learning Conference proposals due Monday

Just a reminder that the joint International Teaching and Learning Conference proposal deadline is this Monday, 19 November. The conference  will be held in Brighton, United Kingdom, 17-19 June and will focus on teaching politics in an era of populism. It is jointly sponsored by APSA, PSA, BISA, and ECPR. All kinds of proposals are welcome, including panels, papers, individuals for roundtables, lightning talks, workshops, and any other innovative pedagogical approach you want to propose.  For more information, head to the PSA conference website. 

(Trans)formative Assessment in Teaching

Today I’m attending ISA’s inaugural Innovative Pedagogy Conference in St. Louis.  Victor and I are doing a workshop on using games and simulations to teach political violence, showcasing activities like Survive or Die!, Prisoner’s DilemmaModel Diplomacy, identity exercise, and others.  But I’m most interested in reflecting on the session offered by Matthew Krain and Kent Kille of the College of Wooster on Assessment and Effectiveness in Active Teaching in International Studies. Their framework for formative assessment (that can, in fact, be transformative) is very helpful as an overall approach to teaching.

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Teaching Election Results

The 2018 midterm elections are over in the US, and it was a night of mixed results.  The Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives, winning at least 27 seats previously held by the Republican Party, while the GOP increased their majority in the Senate, toppling North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and my own state of Missouri’s Claire McCaskill.  

While clearly not as momentous an election as 2016, or the Brexit referendum, or many other elections, the midterms were still an important point to take stock of the impact of Trumpism on American politics, and whether Democrats who were somewhat over-confident in the fall of 2016 could manage to overcome pro-Trump sentiment, a strong economy, congressional district gerrymandering, voter suppression efforts, and the other structural reasons why succeeding at the polls can be difficult. 

Teaching the results of American elections is a frustrating enterprise.

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The Society for the Abolition of Boring Conference Panels

It’s that time of year when I find myself submitting papers and panels to conferences.

But because it’s not the time of year for conferences, I’ve not been thinking too much about what I dislike about how those conferences work.

Often on these pages we write about the shortcomings of conference panel formats: the long presentations, the reading-out of papers, the lack of time for Q&A, the ‘question’ that isn’t.

But this year, I’m resolved to actually try and pull my finger out and try to do something different.

With that in mind, and with the looming announcement of call for papers for my ‘home’ conference at UACES, I’m going to try a couple of things.

The first is a flipped format.

My panellists – as and when I find them – will record 15 minute presentations prior to the conference and upload them to YouTube. We’ll indicate this in the programme, using a hashtag to help find them.

Then, in the actual session, I’ll limit colleagues to a 3 minute presentation of the core message, so those few who’ve not seen the YouTube presentation know what’s going on, and so that we can have considerably more than an hour to discuss the content.

The second panel will be highly interactive, where each presenter starts off with 3 minutes, then the audience vote on whether to give them subsequent blocks of 3 minutes, up to a maximum of 12 minutes. I think we can do that via an app, so no-one has to feel they’re inhibited to ask the speaker to stop.

The logic of the first panel is to maximise the time for face-to-face discussion, which seems to be particularly useful for colleagues to develop their ideas and their papers. It also encourages them to prepare more before the conference itself.

The logic of the second is to incentivise presenters to foreground core messages and to ensure that audiences are engaged, rather than using their time to regurgitate their paper without thought to the format.

In both cases, I hope it will produce a more engaging environment for colleagues attending the session, not least as I intend to secure a small air-horn to drown out anyone who can’t ask a concise question, phrased as a question.

To be honest, I hope no idea if either format will work, but I want to try, because carrying on as we have isn’t a solution. We all know we can do better, so consider this a first step in trying to do better.

If it works, then I’ll see if I can get others to adopt the format, or to try out other formats. Maybe I can persuade those organising conferences to push the use of these different approaches, perhaps with a conference prize for the best online presentation or the like.

The only thing I need now is a small band of volunteers to help try this out.

Some of you might be getting an email, but others of you might just want to contact me via the comments section below: I’m thinking the second format might be particularly good for an L&T panel.

Joint PSA/APSA/ECPR/BISA Pedagogy Conference on Teaching Politics in an Era of Populism

While I am very much looking forward to the ISA Innovative Pedagogy Conference, I’m also excited to share the call for proposals for this new pedagogy conference on Teaching Politics in an Era of Populism, a joint effort by the Political Studies Association, American Political Science Association, European Consortium for Political Research, and British International Studies Association. I am on the planning committee and very excited about bringing together a wide cross-section of scholars to debate these issues.

The conference will be held in Brighton, UK on 17-19 June, 2019.  We are accepting a wide range of proposals, including: individual papers, panels, workshops, 10 minute pedagogical TED-style talks, roundtables (submit as an individual, not a group), and ‘open source’, which is an invitation to be as innovative as you like in what you propose.  Submissions are due November 5th.  You can find more information on the conference web site.

From the call:

“This conference aims to provide a forum in which political science educators from different countries and contexts can come together to explore these challenges and share their experiences and teaching practices. We welcome contributions which explore the challenges faced in national, international, or comparative contexts. We also welcome different approaches to understanding populism and the challenges that it may present to political science educators in different contexts.”

  • Can or should political science education be ‘politically neutral’? Should we nurture values of democracy, equality, and citizenship and, if so, how?
  • How can we support students in developing knowledge, understanding and skills relating to the complex nature of politics, society and government? What role might different approaches to teaching such as simulations, civic engagement and other pedagogies play?
  • What are the challenges of constructing a curriculum and developing learning resources in a period of rapid and sometime dramatic political change?
  • How can we collaborate across different national and educational contexts to support critical learning in political science and international relations? What best practices are there for collaboration in both pedagogical research and cross-cultural classroom experiences?
  • Are there practices or pedagogies from other disciplines that can be adopted or adapted to address these issues?