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Teaching IR Through Writing: A Comprehensive Approach to the Continuous Development of Writing Instruction in an Introductory International Relations Course

International Relations
Education
Empirical
Elizabeth Olsson
University of Gothenburg
Linnéa Gelot
Swedish defence university
Johan Karlsson Schaffer
University of Gothenburg
Andreas Litsegård
University of Gothenburg
Elizabeth Olsson
University of Gothenburg

Abstract

How can instructors in large, introductory courses in International Relations (IR) help students develop their academic writing skills? Existing research demonstrates the pedagogical benefits of integrating academic writing training into regular substantive courses. However, at introductory levels, classes are usually too large, and students’ skills too varied to make meaningful academic writing training feasible. In order to address these challenges, this paper presents a pedagogical design involving individual writing assignments on IR theory, peer assessment in small groups, and continuous feedback from instructors through a logbook assignment. This comprehensive approach allows writing training to scale well to larger classes. The paper documents how we continuously developed this design over several years of teaching an introductory course in IR with an enrolment of between 60 and 150 students, with diverse prior knowledge of the subject and academic writing skills. In addition to our own experience as conveners of the course, we draw on two sources of data – course evaluations and self-reflection logbook entries – to determine the effectiveness of the pedagogical design, and some potential pitfalls. We further define a set of best practices for organizing writing training for large classes, intended to inspire IR teachers to better incorporate academic writing instruction into their own courses.