Brighton beach at sunset

Critically (Re)Writing Narratives #IntTLC19

This week I had the pleasure of collaborating with colleagues from around the world at the joint ECPR, APSA, and BISA International Teaching  and Learning Conference 2019 in Brighton, UK (https://www.psa.ac.uk/intteachandlearn19). This year’s theme was “Teaching Politics in an Era of Populism.”

As promised, this blog post contains reference materials from my co-facilitated workshop on the critically (re)writing narratives active-learning assignment. Your patience with my posting is appreciated. As we mentioned, we plan to turn this work into an article, so please only use these materials for teaching purposes:

Critically (Re)Writing Narratives Support

Thank you first and foremost to my co-facilitator, Alex Kreidenweis, whose University of Connecticut International Relations course first inspired us to develop this assignment. Secondly, thank you to all of our fellow educators who participated in the session. I recognize that it’s not often you get put back in the position of an undergraduate. However, your great senses or humor and willingness to have a little fun made this workshop a joy to lead. I will forever remember the activist cats and mice, and the on-point political cat puns that came from your spirited, creative retelling of “Larry the Downing Street cat throws diplomatic shade under Trump’s limo” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/06/04/cat-crawled-under-president-trumps-limo-photos-are-purr-fect/?utm_term=.3bea67ede50f). It’s my hope that your students will find this activity just as enjoyable and useful if you choose to include it in the critical literacy section of the next course you teach. Most of all, I hope it helps you communicate core expectations while building classroom community.

Beyond this workshop, I was honored to chair one of the conference’s first panels. It was wonderful to see the variety of approaches to active learning that are helping IR students engage with the global politics in meaningful, academically rigorous, and simultaneously career-relevant ways. The highlight of the conference for me was a paper delivered in that panel by a team from the University of Exeter, a faculty member and three of his impressively poised students speaking together about their course journey. The honest, constructive feedback offered by these students was valued more than I expect that they knew. A thought worth sharing  came from one of these students in the Q&A. He reminded us, in his own words, how important it is to speak with our students about learning objectives and how our activities help attain and/or assess them. He emphasized that students appreciate this clear communication, and it helps keep them motivated to work hard in the course. *If any administrators from Exeter happen to see this post, please be sure to keep this course running. It’s an amazing, innovative course that I am confident has challenged these students intellectually and will help them get jobs after graduation.

Finally, the round-table that I most enjoyed was the discussion about supporting first-year student success. (I’m sure none of my colleagues who know me well will be surprised that I gravitated toward this topic.) What I took away from this was a strong sense of gratitude for the variety of professionals who support students holistically at my institution, and others like it. For example, I have learned so much and been able to help my students grow more than I could have alone through my work with colleagues specializing in career development, community service, residential life, outdoor leadership development, and beyond. In this round-table discussion, I reflected on how special these opportunities for collaboration have been for me. The support I was able to provide for my learning community students, for example, was something that many faculty in the room couldn’t imaging providing because they don’t have that kind of diversely-trained team around them. 

Cheers to you from Brighton, UK. I look forward to returning to Connecticut soon and using what I learned from the conference to prepare for my fall First-Year Writing course, “The Politics of Writing and Writing about Politics.”

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