Naïve scientists and conflict analysis

Learning through case studies

in Learning and Teaching
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  • 1 Wright State University r.ayres@wright.edu
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Abstract

Much of our teaching about conflict relies on theoretical ideas and models that are delivered as finished products. This article explores the supposition that what students need is not already-formed theoretical ideas, but exposure to more real-world cases of conflict from which to build theory. The article presents an experiment in pedagogy: teaching a conflict resolution class using only case studies. This approach was expected to have two benefits: better understanding of the underlying concepts and a significant contribution to students’ knowledge about the world. The case-only approach appears to be at least as good as the theory-based version of the class, with some significant side benefits beyond comprehension of the material.

Contributor Notes

R. Williams Ayres is a tenured Associate Professor of Political Science at Wright State University, where he also serves as Associate Dean of the Graduate School. Prior to coming to Wright State he was Director of the Centre for Global Citizenship at Elizabethtown College, and founding Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Indianapolis. His publications include For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War (with Stephen Saideman) as well as numerous articles in Journal of Politics, Journal of Peace Research, Foreign Policy Analysis, Nationalism & Ethnic Politics and others. His research and teaching have primarily focused on the processes and resolution of conflict, especially ethnic conflict. Email: r.ayres@wright.edu

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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