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.

What distinguishes a Summer School student?

Dr Nicola Kirkby is a ‘Literature in the City’ tutor on King’s Undergraduate Summer School.
In SummerTimes she is sharing her observations as an academic who this year taught on a summer school for the first time.

 

It’s a habit among critical thinkers to look for comparisons and contrasts. Throughout the King’s Summer ‘Literature and the City’ module, I prompted my students to explore differences between urban and rural experience, between London and their home town, between Dublin in the 1900s and Paris in the 1920s. From a pedagogical perspective, I was also drawing my own comparisons. Having taught a similar module, ‘Writing London’ in the Department of English at King’s for several years now, I found leading this summer school course for the first time in 2018 a refreshing counterpoint.

How do summer school cohorts differ from their term-time counterparts?
While there is much overlap (these are high-achieving undergraduates and alumni from universities across the world), I found that our lectures, seminars, and site visits had their own distinct dynamic that has impacted my teaching practice all year round.

Curiosity

Because they are open to students from any academic discipline, one of the most significant unifying pre-requisites for King’s Summer Programmes participants is curiosity about the course itself. English Literature majors were working alongside scholars with backgrounds in psychology, policy, modern languages, health science, and physics. This was invaluable in a course that interrogated what it means for people from all walks of life to live intersecting, interconnected lives. Our discussions may have focused predominantly on London, but such diversity in approach and experience meant that we were always bringing this city into dialogue with other global capitals, other networks, and other ways of understanding and organising shared space.

Thanks to such curiosity, the Summer School provided an ideal environment for exploring experimental ideas. At first, I think that students coming from more didactic learning environments found opportunities to challenge established theoretical approaches a little disorientating. But this approach fits well, both with the primary aim of literary studies: to encourage independent critical thinking, and with summer school learners themselves, who, in their choice to up sticks and study overseas for three-to-six intense weeks are more than equal to taking initiative.

Commitment

There’s nothing quite like leaving your life behind to embark on a few weeks of focussed study in a new place. Attendance throughout the summer school was sky-high in a way that is unparalleled in full-year courses where students often juggle responsibilities to home and work throughout the teaching semester. What I had not anticipated, and what I was utterly delighted to find was the tireless motivation of this group in our daily seminars, lectures, and site visits to places have changed London’s literary landscape. ‘Literature and the City’ is a fast-paced and thought-provoking module, and this year’s cohort impressed me by exploring London, Paris, and even Dublin on their own alongside our Monday-Friday classes.

Togetherness

The final distinction is a simple yet important one. Working alongside one another in an intense, discussion-led course helps summer school students build collaborative closeness in a way that would take much longer in a regular undergraduate module. By the end of the programme my ‘Literature and the City’ cohort had expanded their network, forging lasting connections with peers from across the world.

King’s Summer Programmes at EAIE 2018

King’s Summer Programmes will be participating at the 30th Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland which will take place from 11th to 14th September 2018.

Dr Sarah Williamson, Director Summer Programmes, will be speaking at a leadership and strategy workshop titled Summer school euros: costs, resources and business models, where she will discuss different business models for summer schools, including their relative advantages and disadvantages and how to determine which model fits best with your institution’s strategic objectives. Dr Williamson is also a speaker at the session titled All eyes on us: how established summer programmes overcome challenges which looks at challenges facing successful summer schools.

Joint summer schools: Win-win or double trouble? is the title of our poster presentation by Dr Alexander Heinz, Education Programme Lead Summer Programmes, showcasing a live London–Amsterdam case study. He will also be participating in a networking and learning event known as the Summer Schools health clinic as a summer school doctor. We are very proud to announce that Dr Heinz has been voted as the incoming Vice Chair of the Summer Schools expert community, an EAIE forum for all things related to running and establishing summer programmes.

Ian Fielding, Deputy Director Summer Programmes, will be meeting with partners to discuss feedback and provide updates and developments on the undergraduate summer school and summer exchange programme. Ian would also be delighted to hear from other universities interested in our partnership agreements or our Summer School and Education Abroad planning and design services. Make sure you drop by our Summer at King’s exhibition stand (G22).

If you are not physically attending the EAIE conference and exhibition but still want to stay updated with our news you can follow us on Twitter @KingSummer. Further information about EAIE can be found here.