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Case Study: Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies

PEAC 111. Professor Tyrell Haberkorn, Colgate University

Please provide the course description as it appears in the catalog and the typical enrollment for the course.

This course is a survey of key issues and debates in the study of peace and conflict, tracing the history of key concepts in peace and conflict studies, and showing their links with related disciplines, such as sociology, history, and political science. It concludes with an analysis of peace and conflict studies in the wake of the Cold War. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Usual enrollment: 35

What are the learning goals of the media assignment(s) in the course. If your course assignments contain both analysis and creative production components, describe the learning goals of each.

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to thinking critically about peace and conflict. We will take recurrent cycles of conflict, as well as related processes of displacement, struggle, and suffering as our point of departure. Simultaneously, we will be concerned with how people wage peace, construct (and reconstruct) justice, and imagine different futures for themselves, their families, communities, nations, and the world. We will track the legacies of genocide, the possibilities and difficulties of 'rights,' and the new forms of repression emergent since the end of the Cold War. We will examine the problematic of intervention and consider the changing roles of multilateral and humanitarian organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in responding to conflict.

Our examination will be grounded in a series of brief studies of specific twentieth-century conflicts and reconciliation processes, beginning with the Armenian Genocide and ending with torture in the present-day United States. Combining readings of core theoretical texts with analyses of specific case studies, including the war in Darfur, militarization in the United States, genocide in Latin America and the rise, fall, and rise again of the nuclear world, we will build an understanding of how different fields approach these problems, and the various limitations and advantages of different analytic strategies. Finally, we will consider the new forms of connection to resolve conflict and build justice emergent in recent years. Keeping recent histories of conflict and violence in mind, we will ask, if another world is possible, what might it look like?

We will draw on a range of kinds of materials in this course, including political and historical analysis, fiction, poetry, art, and primary source documents. Classes will combine lecture and discussion on reading materials as well as in-class writing and group work. Through a series of online and classroom discussion responses, film and event response papers, a research-based podcast project, a final paper evaluating one theme in the course, a midterm and a final exam, and an optional report on your experience with the interactive game A Force More Powerful, you will develop and clarify your own ideas on different aspects of the study of peace and conflict. In addition, as part of this course, you will take part in the intellectual life of the PCON program through attendance at films and lecture events throughout the semester.

By the end of the semester, you will have a firm grounding in the various streams (Collective Violence, Human Security, and International Social Justice) which comprise the field of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University. You should also begin to have a sense about which topics, regions and approaches you wish to pursue further in your study of peace and conflict.

What are the relationships of the media assignment(s) to the other aspects of the course?

The podcasting project was a way for students to identify and learn about a particular marginalized conflict which they cared about and/or saw as problematically dealt with in dominant media or historiography -- and then intervene to solve the problems they identified.

Describe your assignment design/structure.

The assignment was carried out through multiple steps across the semester. Here are the constituent steps:

  1. Podcast review: Listen to at least two podcasts on the theme of peace and conflict broadly conceived [you may select from those listed on the resource list or you can select other podcasts]. Write a brief [one double-spaced page] review of the podcast in which you consider the following questions:
    1. Who is the audience of the podcast?
    2. How is the podcast constructed? Is it an interview, a monologue, a play, something else altogether? Is this effective?
    3. What kind of information - and how much information - is included about the topic discussed in the podcast? Is it effective?
    4. General critique and appraisal of the podcast: Are you compelled? If so, why are you compelled?
  2. Library work and reflections: In class on 25 September, we will meet with Clarence Maybee, the Information Literacy Librarian. Together we will think about and critically evaluate different kinds of information available. Following our meeting with Clarence, identify at least five different sources you will use as you write your podcast. Offer brief [2-3 sentences] critical evaluations about each sources and also one paragraph reflecting about the process of finding
  3. Script: In class on 7 October, we will meet with Clarence Maybee, the Information Literacy Librarian, to discuss about script ideas and questions. Your podcast will be ten minutes in length. This is approximately 4-5 pages of double-spaced text.
  4. Audio recording and editing workshop: In class on 16 October, we will meet with Ray Nardelli, the Digital Media Manager, to learn the basics of audio recording and editing.
  5. Podcast: Beginning on 23 October, during the second half of the semester, each class period, three students will go to record their podcast rather than coming to the usual PEAC 111 class in Olin 301. You are responsible for finding out what you missed from a colleague. In the week following your assignment, you should edit your podcast until you are satisfied with it.
  6. Brief review of peer podcasts: Listen and write brief reviews [using the "Podcast Review" questions above] of 3 peer podcasts. Each student will write three reviews throughout the semester - Tyrell will create a schedule of listening and reviewing so that every student receives comments.
  7. Final brief reflection paper on the podcast project: Write a 2-3 double-spaced page reflection on the podcasting project. What did you learn? What do you wish you had learned? How is this project different than other kinds of assignments. Also include a self-assessment of your own work and podcast, using the "Podcast Review" questions above.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of visual/aural literacy?

By asking students to begin by finding and evaluating podcasts, this assignment began by assessing a baseline of aural literacy. As students considered their own podcasts and those of others with the same set of questions, their aural literary -- and ability to critique aural pieces -- developed.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of information literacy?

Similar to the above, by asking students to continually evaluate what information was being communicated -- and through what strategies - in each podcast, they began to deepen their information literacy. Through the workshop and discussions with Clarence Maybee, the Information Literacy Librarian, students thought about information literacy in a targeted fashion.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of technology skills?

Through working with Ray Nardelli and Rich Grant in the media studio, students were exposed to the technology resources available to them at Colgate. Through an audio editing workshop with Ray Nardelli -- and then through editing their own podcasts -- students gained a concrete technology skill that is transferable to other contexts and projects.

What are the resources necessary for your assignment (content/materials, institutional support, equipment)?

This assignment was only possible through a collaboration between four actors: Clarence Maybee (the information literacy librarian), Ray Nardelli and Rich Grant (the media studio mavens) and Tyrell Haberkorn.

Describe how you evaluated the project outcomes? Did you evaluate process? Outcomes? Both?

Throughout the semester, the three of us met to check in about how the project was working -- in terms of both process and outcomes. The most powerful evaluation of the project has been through the interviews that Ray Nardelli and Clarence Maybee conducted with student participants, as well as the student reflection papers on the projects. The students articulations of what they learned and what they gained offer evidence of the projects' success -- and the reasons for it. The project was successful because students became inspired and passionate -- and when one is passionate, learning is easy.

Estimate the time invested in the project by you, your students, and academic support staff.

I have no sense of this, actually.

How many times have you taught this course/assignment? What would you do differently next time?

I have taught this course three times, and this assignment one time. If I was teaching the course again, I would teach the assignment again. I might add an additional script-writing session, perhaps with colleagues from the Writing Center.

What is your level of expertise with respect to media technologies and scholarship?

This was my first media technology project -- and it has inspired me to work on a collaborative blog -- and to encourage students in subsequent classes to work outside standard media of papers and written reports.

An instructor created model, instructor comments and students projects can be found here.