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Active Learning in the First-Year International Relations Classroom: Simulating a UN Security Council Debate on the Syrian Crisis

Conflict
 
Conflict Resolution
 
Communication
 
Presenter
Lucy West
Griffith University
Dan Halvorson
Griffith University
Authors
Lucy West
Griffith University
Dan Halvorson
Griffith University
Malin Karlsson
Griffith University

Abstract
The Syrian civil war is the most intractable conflict of the early twenty-first century. In an era of globalised instantaneous communication, many first-year International Relations (IR) students observe the war and its humanitarian consequences through digital platforms, but lack the critical literacy to contextualise the conflict and interpret its stark images of human suffering. An introductory IR course can provide the foundations for students to bridge meaningful connections between theoretical concepts and the real world topics ubiquitous within their digital milieu, but distant from their everyday lives. The paper examines how a large first-year introductory IR cohort in Australia engages with complex global security discourses through a simulated United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debate on humanitarian intervention in Syria. The problem-based, real-time simulation considered in this paper engages students on a number of levels: cognitively, emotionally, ethically and culturally, providing a rich set of learning experiences that holistically explore the dynamics of conflict, human displacement and tensions between state sovereignty and cosmopolitanism. The paper evaluates four introductory cohorts in terms of student interest and motivation, critical digital literacy, empathy and global citizenship.
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