Instruction over Incentives: Assessing Reading Strategies for International Security Studies (with Paul Bezerra and Karin Becker) Discussion-based courses in international relations rely on students’ careful reading of complex texts in advance of class. However, instructors face a perennial problem: many students do not read effectively, or at all. We argue that students often want to, but do not always know how to, read such material effectively. With instruction and guidance on effective reading strategies, students can improve reading comprehension. To test our hypotheses, we measure the effects of (1) receiving course-preparation assignment worksheets (CPAs), (2) receiving critical/active reading strategies instruction, or (3) receiving both interventions (1) and (2) on students’ consumption of reading assignments and reading comprehension. Across four sections of an “International Security Studies” course, we tested our hypotheses using student self-assessment. Results indicate that both CPAs and reading strategies instruction increase student consumption and self-assessed comprehension of assigned material, but with intriguing nuance across the range of possible responses. Generally, no added benefit upon comprehension is realized by offering both treatments together. These effective reading strategies offer benefits beyond our classroom, imparting students with long-lasting skills and offering instructors easily adaptable activities for use in other courses.
Forthcoming in International Studies Perspectives. Paper available here.
Promoting College Reading Completion and Comprehension with Reading Guides: Lessons Learned Regarding the Role of Form, Function, and Frequency (with Karin Becker and Paul Bezerra)
College faculty often struggle with getting their students to read assigned materials. Even if students do read, they may not read closely or critically. Not only does the lack of effective reading undermine understanding, but it also hampers class discussions and engagement. To promote close and critical reading in a required, upper-division International Security Studies course, we offered optional reading guide worksheets as tools to increase students’ reading comprehension and completion. While our reading guides helped students focus on key terms and lesson objectives, flaws in our implementation produced a lack of perceptual value and extrinsic motivation in using the reading guides. In this article, we offer our lessons learned from the use of reading guides, focusing on their form, function, and frequency. These findings equip faculty with useful guidance in how to design and implement effective reading guides across the disciplines.
Published in the Journal of Political Science Education, Vol 20, No 1 (2024): 14-30. Paper available here | PDF available here.
The Politics and Pedagogy of Nationalism: Authentic Learning on Identity and Conflict
In recent decades, nationalism has emerged from the distant purview of history to become the primary driver of some of the world’s biggest news. Given the prominence of nationalist conflict, students in political science increasingly study the subject with modern references in mind. This article describes the design for a timely undergraduate political science course on the causes and consequences of nationalism, with a focus on four central learning objectives: understanding theories and concepts in the study of nations and nationalism; applying theories to contemporary events; exploring issues of identity among a community of learners; and developing analytical and professional skills. I describe in detail two course assignments that exemplify these pedagogical objectives. In the “nationalism in the news” assignment, students give an in-class oral presentation on a current news story, interpreting the event through the lens of course themes. In the “national anthems analysis” paper, students analyze the lyrics of the national anthem of their choosing, linking symbols to interpretations of different nationalism types. I conclude by offering suggestions for adapting these and other course assignments to a range of classrooms and students.
Published in the Journal of Political Science Education, Vol 17, No 1 (2021): 926-937. Paper available here. | PDF available here.
Other Pedagogy Writing:
In an H-Diplo Roundtable, "Teaching Nationalism in IR," I join several scholars to consider why we should discuss nationalism in the international relations classroom, and to offer several practical ideas for how to do so. In my contribution, I discuss how to use news stories on identity and conflict as "teachable moments," and provide the outlines of two assignments -- a group podcast and an individual op-ed -- to help students apply IR theory to the world around them.
In Strategies for Grad School and Beyond (2022), I join co-authors Sam Gubitz, Jennifer Kavanagh, and Kelly Piazza in our chapter "Pushing the Boundaries of your PhD: Exploring Careers Outside the Ivory Tower." In our chapter, we highlight the diversity of career options open to Political Science PhDs, in particular those outside of tenure track jobs at major research universities and small liberal arts colleges. The chapter describes the advantages, disadvantages, and how to prepare for teaching opportunities at the U.S. military service academies and professional military education institutions; pre-collegiate education positions; policy-focused jobs at think tanks, nonprofits, and in governments; and private sector jobs.
In the Fall 2021 issue of Teaching Tailwinds, the Air Force Academy's pedagogy magazine, faculty were invited to write about teaching innovations forged by the pandemic that we plan to continue in the post-pandemic classroom. My column "Enhancing Relevance and Students' Perceived Value with Virtual Expert Visits" describes one such practice I regularly employ: the "virtual expert visit" -- fireside chats that bring in diverse and expert perspectives on the topics in my course. I explain how these learning-centered visits augment students' experience, and provide practical instructions for other educators interested in adopting this approach.