Dr Diana Bozhilova, Teaching Fellow Summer Programmes, brings her lively discussions on the theory and practice of International Relations to our London programmes and to India through her annual contribution to the King’s Summer School Programmes in Delhi and Mumbai.
The Summer School should be fun but also achieve interpersonal growth and fire up passion for higher education. Amidst young people’s busy lives, it should bring about such outcomes with speed and panache, most certainly, it should be a substantive variation on information available via Wiki, FB, Twitter, et cetera. So, what is it like to teach faced with such challenges?
I teach Politics and International Relations and my experience has shown that the humanities encourage creativity. I still want my students to read without worry they’d be called nerds if they do so also in the summer. A vital tool of Summer School teaching is the practice of the subject. My students partake in daily strategy games, such as Negotiations with DPRK; simulations, like the United Nations Security Council Reform Group; international trade games; smart city building exercises, and the rest.
My own expertise comes from constantly researching my subject. A great enabler of that is seeing my students as a focus group that literally take the pulse of the course through their comments and feedback. Because I teach international students in London and then also take Politics and IR ‘on the road’ to India, my students cover between them a substantive portion of the globe and bring together a myriad of views and expectations.
Making sense of the world is about acquiring a key skill – the ability to separate information from knowledge. As a lecturer, social media poses a tremendous challenge on how to inculcate this key skill in students, namely the separation of knowledge from information, whilst appreciating the great utility of the internet. Given the limitations of time, I see the summer programme as an opportunity not only to learn about IR but to practice it on a daily basis and thus walk away with not only the theory that one gains from a classical degree approach but also from application of it to real life events in IR.
International Relations (IR) particularly lends itself to a variety of teaching approaches. This is most relevant to how students engage with IR as a summer course, since the brevity of the programme calls for a unique method of engagement than a year long degree course otherwise would.
Lectures on IR are thus supplemented by real life simulations in the summer programme classes. One example of how this occurs in practice is presented through the very topical current discussion on the United Nations, given the forthcoming election of its next Secretary-General later this year. I contributed a recent blog on the various aspects of the process. But how does one then translate this passive information into active knowledge in the classroom?
An excellent way to engage with the lengthy calls for United Nations reform is to focus student attention on its key body, the Security Council. This then allows for the implementation of a simulation exercise modelled on the “Open Ended Group on Security Council Reform”, where students can study in depth and analyse the positions of competing powers as to whether to enlarge, level out for parity, or do away altogether with this key institution of UN decision making.
One of the most memorable sayings I heard taking my subject ‘on the road’ to India was: ‘Google cannot find your slippers in the Temple’ (which in Hindi translates into something like ‘Google Apni Chappal Mandir Se Nahi Dhoond sakta’.) With that, my students find that social media is a phenomenal way to exchange beacons, whilst the Summer School enables the connection of a great series of these to create a whole and gain a different understanding of the world altogether!