Addressing the Signs of the Times

Dr Huw Dylan is a Senior Lecturer in Intelligence Studies and International Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Dr Dylan is also a Visiting Research Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School, Oslo.

 

One of the most exciting things about the King’s Undergraduate Summer School is the variety of approaches to teaching and learning that students will experience. This reflects both the scope of subjects on offer, but also the energy tutors put into creating engaging learning environments. This entry, building upon our colleague Dr Diana Bozhilova’s blog post on teaching international relations in this series, offers a brief introduction to our approach to teaching Politics and the Media.

For those of us interested in politics and international relations it seems that not a day goes by without some controversy or other concerning what is the truth of a particular situation making the headlines in the press. From the competing narratives offered to the electorate in the BREXIT referendum, to the myriad debates concerning President Trump and words and deeds, to the running series of debates between Russia and the West over a number of issues, including the shooting down of MH17 to Russian involvement in east Ukraine, matters of strategic communication, allegations of propaganda, and charges of ‘fake news’ have come to dominate several areas of our political discourse. This course aims to place many of these issues in a deeper historical context, and to consider carefully how information and messages have been utilised by political power throughout history to further their goals.

Our teaching is based on our experience in the Department of War Studies. This department encourages an interdisciplinary and creative approach to studying conflict and war and all associated phenomena. We aim to combine teaching of core concepts and ideas, such as exploring the main theorists or thinkers of propaganda and strategic communications, in tandem with the conflicts or issues that they sought to influence at the time. And then to examine how these ideas resonate today in our contemporary debates. So, we will begin with the ideas of Gustav le Bon, and propaganda in the age of the Two World Wars, before moving on to the Cold War and the post 9/11 world. Students will engage deal with theory and practice, setting the scene for many of the issues we the class will consider during the latter part of the course.

The learning outcomes for this short course on Politics and the Media are centred upon the development of an understanding of key subject matter and fostering critical thinking. The class will consider the core components of propaganda and strategic communication narratives in various case studies. Many of these case studies involve campaigns that aimed to convert or entrench the political stance or the voting intentions of a large body of people, and have become contentious. Analysing the construction, delivery, and impact of these various campaigns will leave students equipped to more effectively engage with such campaigns in future, in particular with regard analysing and challenging the competing claims of ‘truth’. A key component of developing these critical skills will be an active consideration of the modern information environment and information technology, and how they both facilitate the propagation and the challenge of key messages.

King’s Summer Programmes at BUTEX Winter workshop

Recent developments Global HE shows indicators of how short-term programming overseas is increasingly engaging non-traditional students. Short courses present nimble opportunities to broaden access and contribute significantly to the creative pedagogical range of international education.

Dr Sarah Williamson, Director of Summer Programmes, and Dr Alexander Heinz, Summer Education Programme Lead will be presenting the ‘Improving Inclusion: Short Courses as an Opportunity for International Education’ workshop at BUTEX Winter Workshop 2018.

BUTEX brings together universities, colleges and other HE institutions across the UK that have a shared interest in learning abroad.

Its aims include developing expertise and influence the future of international education.

We are very pleased to announce that an article in the next edition of EAIE Forum magazine will also discuss ‘Transnational Dialogues on Disability’.

 

Teaching International Relations for dynamic audiences

Dr Diana Bozhilova, Teaching Fellow Summer Programmes, brings her lively discussions on the theory and practice of International Relations to our London programmes through her annual contribution to the King’s Summer School Programmes. 

 

Political events “crowd” our lives with increasing dynamism. This leads to greater interest in the study of International Relations (IR) as a means to explaining ethical questions, consequentialist and deontological reasoning. As a result, normative IR is still very relevant but how do we teach it within short courses for highly mobile and technologically astute young audiences for whom time is of the essence?

Core concepts

My experience of teaching IR has been one of focusing on core concepts and methods. Short courses allow for selecting “relevant” blocks on which to scope attention in order to critically appraise a particularly impactful development in international relations. Take Brexit, Russia or China for example – separately, they challenge aspects of the liberal international order established during the “American” century and contribute to the sense that something rather big is afoot. For normative IR, this means a conceptual and methodological shift being under way.

Roadmaps

The learning outcomes for short courses in IR centre on developing critical thinking and analytical capacities that enable students to transform information flows into knowledge. I would never forget how on one of my travels to India and whilst occupied with thoughts about the impact of technology on the study of IR, a friend from Mumbai remarked: “Google cannot help find your slippers in the temple.” Technology is an information enabler but normative IR provides roadmaps that transform data flows into meaningful building blocks.

Application

Games and simulations increasingly infiltrate IR pedagogy. On the one hand, those opposed to such dynamic teaching models emphasise their inevitably reductionist approach to understanding normative IR through diminution of variables, thus confining discussions to basics at the expense of the vastness of paradigms and approaches that exist in the discipline. On the other hand, their great utility lies in adapting static theories to dynamic teaching models. This has a particular advantage for international audiences who would like to see how theories apply within different geographic and institutional settings. Simulations can involve structural constructs from diplomacy and negotiations, economic development and governance reforms, management of warfare and environmental crises. They are well suited to short courses, dedicated sessions, and blended learning models.