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Naïve scientists and conflict analysis

Learning through case studies

R. William Ayres

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.