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.
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
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
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
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.
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?
Registration is now open for the first annual International Studies Association Innovative Pedagogy Conference (ISA-IPC), which will be held on Thursday, November 15, 2018, in St. Louis, MO, in conjunction with the ISA Midwest meeting. This new ISA initiative marks the beginning of a series of programs to be held in conjunction with regional conferences around the United States, and beyond. The one-day event will foster a highly interactive environment to explore new ideas in pedagogy and assessment—and offers rich opportunities for professional development, networking, and classroom skills. There will be three types of sessions at the ISA-IPC: workshops, graduate teaching assistant training, and plenary meetings.
Workshops will be directed by leading voices on pedagogy, assessment, and professional development. Participants will attend four workshops during the day, chosen from a rich menu, to share innovations and ideas about different themes in international studies pedagogy. Among the workshop themes for 2018 are: Simulations & Games for Teaching Violence and Peace; Publishing Your Innovative Teaching Work; Research Literacy; International Studies Curriculum Design; Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs; and Global Service Learning. These interactive short sessions will provide hands-on experience and materials for ready application, along with opportunities for professional networking and sharing of ideas.
Graduate Teaching Assistant Training session offer a hands-on learning opportunities for advanced graduate students who are instructing their own classes at their universities. Training will focus on running effective active teaching exercises, dealing with challenging situations in the classroom, assessment, and turning teaching opportunities into professional success. A certificate of participation will be provided for all attendees.
Plenary sessions will focus on best practices in innovative teaching and promote opportunities for collaboration and exchange. From the opening session to an evening networking reception, participants will share ideas with like-minded colleagues. A keynote presentation by ISA President Patrick James will foster further dialogue on best practices in active teaching and learning.
In line with Simon’s last post, something of a continued meditation on conferences and academic disciplinary associations in the USA, relative to last weekend’s one-day TLC, which was embedded within the APSA annual meeting:
Conferences reflect perverse incentives that do not reflect the realities of the academic labor market. Only a small minority of people who obtain PhDs, regardless of field, end up working as tenured professors at elite research universities teaching one or two, or zero, courses per semester. Yet to have even a chance of being hired or tenured by any institution, regardless of its position in the reputational pecking order, one is supposed to present (at conferences) and publish (in journals) research. The research is almost always irrelevant to anyone outside the discipline and much of the time also irrelevant to those within it.
These norms allow academic conferences to prey financially on graduate students, who are led to believe that they must attend, to both present research and to interview. In an age of digital communication tools and decreasing numbers of tenure-track positions, neither search committees nor disciplinary associations should be encouraging graduate students to pay out of pocket to attend conferences, the costs of which can exceed $1,000 per event.
But therein lies the rub: the more people who register for and attend a conference, the more profitable the conference is to the disciplinary association that has organized it. Whether a conference enables graduate students, their advisers, or other faculty to become more effective at what most academics spend most of their time doing — teaching — is not a concern. To claim otherwise is to ignore the economics of the system.
Conference attendance by full-time faculty is subsidized by their employers in the form of professional development support. Yet the way in which most conferences are structured means that opportunities are lacking for enhancing the teaching skills used on a daily basis in the workplace. Given the declining fortunes of many colleges and universities in the USA, this subsidization is likely to decrease, and decrease substantially, at some point in the near future — or maybe it’s occurring already.
Another announcement about an upcoming conference — in case anyone wants to enjoy southern New England autumn weather:
Registration is open for the annual conference of the Noreen Stonor Drexel Cultural and Historic Preservation program at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, October 12-13, 2018. The theme of this year’s conference is “Community Preservation through Adaptive Reuse.”
Full details on the conference and how to register are at this link.
A last minute call for papers for the 40th annual Humanities and Technology Association (HTA) Conference, to be held at Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, on November 1-3. Deadline is September 1. Additional details are at this link. The HTA is an interdisciplinary organization and it welcomes submissions from all fields — from faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates.
Saturday, September 1, marks the first of APSA’s mini-Teaching and Learning Conferences at the association’s annual meeting. I’m assuming most of you who are attending the meeting have already decided whether to register for the mini-TLC, but on the chance a few people haven’t . . . here is the program schedule and general information. As is often the case, I will be leading one of the workshop sessions — on students learning course content by designing games.
Logistics might be more important to you at this point. I lived in Boston while in college and still visit regularly. I’m happy to answer specific questions posted as comments. For example:
If you’re staying in a conference hotel or nearby, take the MBTA Silver Line 1 bus from Logan Airport (free for arriving passengers) to South Station, transfer to the Red Line inbound toward Alewife. Go to Park Street station, then get on —
Any outbound Green Line train to exit at Copley station.
Any outbound Green Line train but E to exit at the Hynes Convention Center.
The outbound Green Line E train to exit at the Prudential Center.
The above makes the subway sound more complicated than it actually is. Copley, Hynes, and the Prudential are all within a few blocks of each other. Transferring between different subway lines is remarkably easy, especially since this is a public transit system in the USA. And the trip will cost you less than US$3. Here is the full MBTA subway map.
I’m just back from the International Studies Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco, and it was a pedagogy bonanza! Great attendance at the pedagogy panels (even those held at off-times) and excellent discussion all around. One thing I love about us pedagogy types is a commitment to leaving plenty of time for Q&A and discussion, since everyone in the room has some expertise to share.
Victor Asal and I ran a new Career Course on Teaching the Intro Class. We focused on both intro to IR and comparative politics, covering such topics as what to do on Day 1, reading/text options, writing good exams and written assignments, classroom management, and of course, games and other activities to teach the material. Our participants had a ton of great ideas and insights.
On the panel on Theory and Practice in IR Teaching: Effectiveness, Political Engagement, and Active Learning, Marcelo Valenca of Escola de Guerra Naval discussed the changing nature and approaches toward pedagogical training in Brazil. He pointed particularly to the impact of the pedagogy workshops held by the College of Wooster’s Jeffrey Lantis, Kent Kille, and Mathew Krain as being instrumental in bringing change to that country. The Wooster Three were mentors of mine when I was in graduate school, so I wasn’t surprised but still pleased to learn about the far-reaching impact of their efforts.
I presented a paper on using a game-version of the television show Survivor to incentive my students to complete the readings, pay attention to current events, and learn geography. The results on the geography front were…not what I expected. Students who took a single, traditional Map Quiz performed much better than this students in the game that had regular, weekly practice in geography! But as we’ve said many times before, failure can be a usefullearningtool and this has prompted me to really investigate the key variables about the game that may have hindered learning, so more on that in the future.
An audience member on that panel (Ian Manners, University of Copenhagen) pointed out the utility of using student-created learning modules as a way of engaging students in learning content at a high level. I love this idea, and i’m going to use it in my seminar on sex, marriage, and violence in the fall.
Finally, some conference news: ISA is holding its first Innovative Pedagogy Conference on November 15th in St. Louis, the day before ISA’s Midwest meeting. There will be a plenary, keynote speech by ISA President Patrick James, a graduate student teacher training certification session, and 8 workshops on subjects such as faculty led study abroad programs, designing curriculum, research literacy, civic engagement, assessment of active learning, publishing in the scholarship of teaching and learning, designing simulations, and using simulations and games to teach political violence. At least two members of Team ALPS (myself and Victor Asal) will be there, so please join us!
ISA now has a Professional Resource Center which includes a syllabi archive and a great site for finding some good simulations to use in your classes. You do have to be a member to access the PRC but consider sending in your materials for inclusion!
Finally, a note on submitting to ISA: the two sections that tend to sponsor ALPS-style papers and roundtables are Active Learning in International Affairs (ALIAS) and International Education. I’m section program chair for the latter, and talking with the program chair for ALIAS, we not that we don’t get a ton of first-round submissions. If you’ve thought about presenting a paper or organizing a panel or roundtable relevant to either section, please do so–we are eager for more submissions for next year’s conference in Toronto. There are also opportunities for Innovative Panels, Career Courses, and Flash Talks–check out ISA’s website for more details. Some topics that I know are of interest to my section include best practices in study abroad, transformations in higher education (particularly from a comparative perspective), the challenges of being a faculty administrator of international programs, and curricular design features for IR programs.
That’s it for now! As usual, conferences spur me into thinking in new directions for my pedagogy, and I’m excited to start putting some of these ideas into practice.