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date: 23 April 2018

Pedagogy and Foreign Policy Analysis

Summary and Keywords

Pedagogical objectives and educational outcomes play a significant role in foreign policy analysis. The actor-centered approach of foreign policy analysis gives students the unique opportunity to place themselves in the shoes of decision makers and to understand the different constraints, both domestic and international, that influence the policies adopted by decision makers. In other words, foreign policy analysis can have two functions: to teach students about the processes by which foreign policy is made, or the substance of the foreign policies of various countries, and to enhance students’ ability to imagine the perspectives of others. Whether foreign policy analysis does, in fact, manage to develop this ability is an empirical question that also depends on the course emphasis and pedagogies employed. In this sense, pedagogy does not only mean excellent teaching, but also systematic investigation of teaching methods and techniques, student learning outcomes, educational assessment, and curriculum development. The literature on foreign policy analysis, pedagogy, and curriculum emphasizes active learning strategies and the need for clearly articulated learning objectives for the curriculum as a whole and the place of specific courses within it. Examples of active learning pedagogies are case teaching, simulations, and problem-based learning. Despite some very worthwhile research that has been done, there are still some gaps that need to be addressed. One is the lack of empirical work that helps evaluate the merits of the various teaching strategies in foreign policy analysis, and another is the inconsistent findings produced by the empirical studies that do exist.

Keywords: foreign policy analysis, actor-centered approach, foreign policy, pedagogy, teaching methods, learning outcomes, curriculum development, active learning strategies, case teaching, problem-based learning

Introduction

At the heart of foreign policy analysis is the human decision maker (Hudson 2005:1). The actor-centered approach is what sets foreign policy analysis apart from international relations more generally. This actor-centered approach is also what makes foreign policy analysis an excellent introduction to international relations: it is easier for uninitiated (undergraduate) students to ponder the sometimes puzzling foreign policy decisions made by leaders than to wrap their minds around the abstractions of international relations theory.

Interestingly, rather than tapping into this curiosity about decision making and decision makers, most introductions to the study of international relations take a far more theoretical and abstract approach. In other words, international studies (as well as political science) curricula generally regard international relations as the starting point (taught as an introductory course) and foreign policy analysis as a specialization that follows later in a student’s education. This represents a missed opportunity because this field’s actor-centered approach is intuitively appealing to many students. Therefore, if the field were to take foreign policy analysis as the starting point for learning about international affairs, this would have the potential to generate a much broader interest in international relations, especially because the field dovetails well with simulations and other pedagogies that emphasize active learning.

This essay is grounded in the emerging field of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), which is best defined as the scholarly and empirical investigation of how we teach and how students learn. Hence, the term pedagogy is used here not merely to mean excellent teaching, but in the broader sense of the systematic investigation of teaching methods and techniques, student learning outcomes, educational assessment, and curriculum development (Hutchings and Schulman 1999; Hutchings 2002; Ishiyama and Breuning 2005).

This essay will: (1) address the role of pedagogical objectives and educational outcomes in foreign policy analysis (in doing so, it places foreign policy analysis within the context of the broader curriculum in international studies/international relations and political science); (2) review the literature on pedagogy, paying special attention to SoTL on active learning pedagogies (much of this research is not specific to foreign policy analysis, but special attention is paid to pedagogies that work well for teaching foreign policy analysis); (3) ascertain how foreign policy analysis is currently taught (I analyze syllabi and, among other things, evaluate them for evidence of the use of active learning pedagogies); and (4) review the foci of a selection of textbooks designed to teach foreign policy analysis and US foreign policy. The essay will end with some conclusions about the state of pedagogy in foreign policy analysis and some desirable future directions for research.

Foreign Policy Analysis, Pedagogy, and Curriculum

The actor-centered approach of foreign policy analysis readily invites students to place themselves in the shoes of decision makers, to ponder whether the criticism – or, less frequently, praise – of actual decisions was deserved, and to understand the many domestic and international constraints that influence the policies that decision makers choose to pursue. The actor-centered approach of foreign policy analysis includes not just a focus on individual decision makers, but also on small and informal groups as well as larger, more institutionalized entities, such as coalitions or agencies. This actor-centered approach is eminently suited to teach students to see the world from perspectives they may not have pondered previously and to enhance their ability to see the world from multiple vantage points. Foreign policy analysis, in other words, can be used not only to teach students about the processes by which foreign policy is made, or the substance of the foreign policies of various countries, but also to develop in students a greater ability to imagine the perspectives of others – a skill which will be increasingly relevant in a globalizing world.

Whether foreign policy analysis does, in fact, manage to develop this ability is an empirical question that also depends on the course emphasis and pedagogies employed. Marks (2002) suggests that students in the US often start with a strongly held perspective and a well-developed sense of identification with their country. Sjolander (2008), on the other hand, suggests that in Canada the pedagogical context is far different because political identity is fragmented. Her analysis of syllabi suggests that there are significant differences in the French and English language Canadian foreign policy courses taught at Canadian universities, even though the courses across the language divide share many readings (in English!) in common. Hence, in Canada foreign policy courses are “actively engaged in constructing political identity and defining citizenship” (Sjolander 2008:2), whereas in the US students enter courses with such identities already formed (Marks 2002). Irrespective of these differences, both authors suggest that foreign policy analysis courses should work to develop students’ ability to think critically (Marks 2002; Sjolander 2008:2).

Unfortunately, there is little literature that addresses pedagogy in foreign policy analysis specifically, and the work that does address it is largely focused on “how to” descriptions of teaching strategies. For instance, the edited volume by Lantis et al. (2000) contains several chapters that address pedagogies specifically designed for foreign policy analysis courses: Haney’s chapter (2000) addresses the use of films in a foreign policy analysis course, whereas several other chapters provide insight into the use of the case teaching method (Hagan 2000; Hey 2000) and simulations (Hobbs and Moreno 2000; Preston 2000). Beyond advice on teaching strategies in the Lantis et al. (2000) volume and other publications (e.g., Kuzma and Haney 2001; Deibel 2002; Gibler 2004; Shaw 2004), there is a paucity of SoTL literature in foreign policy analysis. That is not to deny the value and importance of advice on teaching strategies. In fact, the literature on teaching strategies – both in foreign policy analysis specifically and in international relations and political science more generally – is immensely useful as a source of innovative ideas. However, teaching strategies ultimately prove their value only in the context of their ability to help students attain the broader learning objectives of the curriculum. Unless we know why we teach – what knowledge and skills we wish students to obtain – the choice of one teaching strategy over another is difficult to justify.

A consideration of the learning objectives of foreign policy analysis courses requires a peek beyond the boundaries of this field. Foreign policy analysis is situated within international studies and/or political science. To understand its place within the curriculum, we must look to these fields and to higher education more generally. The literature in these areas emphasizes not only active learning strategies (e.g., Boyer et al. 2000), but also the need for clearly articulated learning objectives for the curriculum as a whole and the place of specific courses within it (Boyer 1990; Wahlke 1991; Hutchings and Shulman 1999). Most importantly, the sequential learning that is possible through a consciously designed curriculum permits the development of the “building blocks of knowledge that lead to more sophisticated understanding” and, ultimately, “leaps of imagination and efforts at synthesis” (AACU 1991:24; see also Wahlke 1991). Several recent studies have investigated the degree to which these recommendations have been adopted by universities offering international studies (Ishiyama and Breuning 2004; Brown et al. 2006) or political science majors (Ishiyama 2005).

As shown by Ishiyama and Breuning (2004) in their study of liberal arts colleges and universities in the Midwestern region of the United States, a rather sizeable proportion of international studies major programs is relatively unstructured – at least in the sense of the cumulative learning intended by the recommendations outlined in the AACU (1991) and Wahlke (1991) reports. Subsequent to the publication of the Ishiyama and Breuning (2004) study, there has been some debate concerning the desirability of structure as well as the elements necessary to label an international studies program as “structured” (e.g., Breuning and Ishiyama 2004; Hey 2004). In addition, a more recent survey (Brown et al. 2006) of a larger and more diverse sample of institutions found a greater amount of structure among international studies programs. The differences between the two studies appear to hinge on the definitions employed in each regarding the coding of international studies program elements. The bottom line is that both the merits and the desirable features of the structure of international studies programs are still in contention. Both more empirical work and greater reflection on program structure, especially in the context of the learning objectives of such programs, would be useful. This would help to better define the place and objectives of foreign policy analysis courses in the international studies and/or political science curriculum.

Although a detailed discussion of the merits of more and less structured curricula is beyond the scope of this discussion, it must be noted that the pedagogies employed in teaching foreign policy analysis cannot be seen as standing apart from the larger objectives of a major’s – or also a university’s – curriculum as a whole. Individual courses not only fulfill learning objectives in a specific aspect of a discipline, but also serve as building blocks for the cumulative learning that ought to take place across the courses that students complete to fulfill the requirements for the major and the degree (AACU 1991; Wahlke 1991).

The current state of international studies and political science curricula entails that it is likely that the objectives served by foreign policy analysis courses vary greatly between institutions that offer such courses. Indeed, Boyer et al. (2000:2) noted the “enormous diversity of approaches” to international studies in the inaugural issue of International Studies Perspectives (ISP). The editors sought to provide “a unique outlet” for “peer-reviewed scholarship on teaching” in international studies (Boyer et al. 2000:5). Today, it remains the only outlet for such scholarship devoted specifically to international studies, although two additional publications provide opportunities for publishing scholarship on teaching and learning (SoTL) in political science more broadly: the Journal of Political Science Education and “the teacher” section of PS: Political Science and Politics.

Active Learning in Foreign Policy Analysis

The actor-centered nature of foreign policy analysis makes it eminently suited for active learning pedagogies. Such teaching strategies may not be unique to foreign policy analysis, but many dovetail better with the actor-centered nature of this field than with the subject matter of other aspects of international relations. This section emphasizes SoTL on active pedagogies most useful for foreign policy analysis.

Over the years, ISP has frequently published work on active learning strategies, such as simulations, case teaching, problem-based learning, collaborative learning, or experiential learning. Among these, the single most frequently appearing topic is that of simulations, which were the subject of 16 articles across the first eight years (2000–7) of publication. Not all the simulations discussed in the pages of ISP were used in foreign policy analysis courses. However, this does not diminish the usefulness of the findings for foreign policy analysis, which is a field that is particularly well suited to the use of simulations. Of the studies about the usefulness of simulations, Krain and Lantis (2006; see also Powner and Allendoerfer 2008) deserves specific mention: their study used an experimental design to test whether students who participated in a simulation learnt more than those who attended traditional lecture-based classes. Their carefully designed study demonstrated that students gain knowledge irrespective of whether they were taught the material through an active learning strategy (the simulation) or the passive learning of the traditional lecture format. In terms of knowledge acquisition, both pedagogical strategies did equally well. This contrasts with the finding of Baranowski (2006), also on the basis of an experimental design, who found that the single session simulation he used in one class did enhance student performance relative to the performance of students in another class in which he did not employ the simulation. Baranowski’s finding is consistent with Frederking (2005), Shaw (2006), and Shellman and Turan (2006). Frederking (2005) showed that students who participated in a simulation scored better on their examinations than students who did not; he therefore concludes that simulations have a positive impact on student retention of material. The Shaw (2006) and Shellman and Turan (2006) studies employed a different methodology; both relied on surveys and self-reports. Although a number of studies have found positive impacts of simulations on knowledge acquisition, several of the studies that employed the most stringent empirical tests did not (Krain and Lantis 2006; Powner and Allendoerfer 2008). Hence, despite much positive evidence, the verdict on the impact of simulations on knowledge acquisition (in foreign policy analysis and beyond) is as yet somewhat inconclusive.

However, Krain and Lantis also noted that the “different approaches yield different kinds of learning” (2006:404). Besides knowledge, students gain other learning outcomes through participation in simulations. Most important was the finding that the simulation improved students’ ability to see the world from multiple perspectives and to empathize with others’ viewpoints (Krain and Lantis 2006). Stover (2007; see also Stover 2006), using a different simulation and a somewhat different experimental design, came to a similar conclusion. He found that students reported that they could relate better to the atmosphere of the Cold War period after having participated in a simulation on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although students may be able to learn historical facts (or knowledge) equally well using traditional pedagogies, Stover argues that for the current generation of students “the feelings associated with the danger of the Cold War seem lost to the shadows of time” (2007:111; emphasis added). In other words, the simulation enabled students to relate to the material in ways that the traditional lecture format could not accomplish.

The findings of these studies – which mostly investigated the use of in-class simulations rather than online formats – have implications for choosing pedagogical strategies to serve the learning objectives of the course. If the goal is to increase students’ knowledge of a subject or performance on a test, simulations are not necessarily superior to lectures or student participation in class discussions (Krain and Lantis 2006; Powner and Allendoerfer 2008). If, on the other hand, the objective is to increase students’ ability to view the world from multiple vantage points, then an active learning strategy, such as a simulation, makes sense. The Krain and Lantis (2006) and Stover (2006, 2007) studies find that simulations increase the ability of students to empathize.

Another active learning pedagogy, case teaching, has been particularly popular in foreign policy analysis. It was the subject of three articles which appeared in the first three years of publication of ISP (Golich 2000; Hall 2001; Pigman 2002) and has since virtually disappeared from the journal’s pages – with the exception of one article describing an effort to use case teaching during a course taught at two campuses simultaneously by using close-circuit television (East and Hermann 2005). The absence of articles addressing either this pedagogy or the learning outcomes achieved as a result is remarkable because a widely adopted textbook for US foreign policy courses is designed to facilitate case teaching (Carter 2007). This pedagogy is implemented with some frequency (at least, judging from the popularity of the book), but its merits are less likely to be described, evaluated, or tested in the pages of ISP than some other pedagogies.

According to Golich (2000), case teaching builds substantive knowledge, but is especially useful in the acquisition of critical thinking skills, as well as written and oral communication skills. The other two studies (Hall 2001; Pigman 2002) describe case teaching efforts rather than testing whether students made gains in their ability to think critically. A fourth study described a related teaching method, the use of memoirs in teaching foreign policy (Deibel 2002). Deibel (2002) highlights the fact that memoirs are both accessible and engaging, making them eminently suitable as an introduction to foreign policy analysis, but also as a tool to sharpen analytical skills. Yet another innovative approach is represented by Ruane and James (2008), who use J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to teach various international relations theories and perspectives. The popularity of the recent film trilogy based on this epic makes it an appealing vehicle for instruction that shares much in common with case teaching. Golich (2000) cites anecdotal and empirical evidence that case teaching achieves these learning outcomes, but it is unclear to what degree this has been tested in studies that approximate the experimental design used by Krain and Lantis (2006) or Stover (2007). This would be an important addition to the literature.

Case teaching requires careful preparation. It is different from classroom or seminar discussions in that it focuses the students on a specific case drawn from the real world and asks students to recognize the presence of (previously learnt) theoretical principles in a real-world example (Golich 2000). Cases, in other words, teach students to connect abstract ideas to their manifestations in actual current or historical situations. In doing so, the case study teaching method enables students to build a bridge between abstract theory and its application to the interpretation of events.

Although case teaching and simulations both seek to enhance students’ abilities to think critically, they achieve this in very different ways: studies suggest that simulations heighten the ability of students to empathize (i.e., relate to material in affective ways), whereas case teaching appears to be well suited to honing students’ analytical abilities (and develops cognitive skills). Both have their role to play in the development of the ability to think critically and analyze political phenomena. Whether one or another active pedagogy is employed should be a function of the learning objectives of the course. In addition, these two active learning pedagogies are likely to resonate best with different audiences: students are often able to empathize before they are able to be analytical. Hence, simulations may be suited to developing basic critical thinking abilities in introductory level courses, whereas case teaching may be better suited to further develop critical thinking skills in a more analytical manner in upper division and graduate level courses.

Case teaching and simulations are not the only active learning strategies discussed in the pages of ISP and other journals that publish on pedagogy in international studies and political science. Related to case teaching are problem-based learning (Burch 2000) and the use of debate (Omelicheva 2006). This overview does not aim to present an exhaustive inventory of the various pedagogies discussed in ISP and/or other journals. Rather, the point of this review of the literature is to underscore the fact that teaching strategies must be selected in the context of learning outcomes – of the course specifically, and of the curriculum more generally. The conscious selection of pedagogies for the achievement of clearly articulated learning outcomes is hampered by the dearth of studies that approximate experimental design in their efforts to ascertain the effectiveness of specific techniques. Anecdotal evidence of the benefits of various instructional techniques is useful and certainly preferable to no evidence, but to have a better grasp of the merits of specific pedagogical strategies, it will be essential to achieve a more targeted use of various active learning pedagogies.

Such conscious and targeted use of instructional techniques to achieve specific learning outcomes cannot be achieved unless there is also greater attention given to the role foreign policy analysis courses play within the achievement of the learning objectives of the international studies (or political science) curriculum. Although it is unlikely that international studies curricula across different universities – and across different societies – will be motivated by one universal set of learning objectives, each institution that offers such a program might benefit from explicit consideration of the learning objectives of their program, as well as the role each of the courses offered plays in the achievement of those objectives. A more consciously targeted use of pedagogies is essential in an environment in which departments and universities are increasingly asked to evaluate the learning outcomes of their curricula through assessment (Boyer et al. 2000; Deardorff and Folger 2005; Hill 2005; Ishiyama and Breuning 2008).

Assessment is “an ongoing process of understanding and improving student learning” (Angelo 1995:7). It is centered on the articulation of expectations, as well as the measurement of learning outcomes on the basis of those expectations (Wright 2004). This holds for programs, but also for individual courses. The process of devising a clear statement of learning objectives provides instructors with the opportunity to reflect on what it is they would like students to gain from completing the course in terms of knowledge and/or skills. Depending on the department (as well as the institution within which the department is housed), instructors may be expected to incorporate learning objectives of the major or university curriculum into a course.

Whether or not the instructor works within the framework of departmental or university curriculum goals or has great freedom to determine learning objectives for a course, the purpose for clearly and explicitly outlining the course’s pedagogical objectives is one and the same: it creates transparency concerning expectations and provides the starting point for evaluating whether the expectations are indeed met by those students who complete the course. Indeed, Serafin (1990) found student performance to be positively related to the explicitness of the syllabus regarding course objectives, content, and evaluation. Ishiyama and Hartlaub (2002), moreover, found that students rate instructors who use “rewarding” (as opposed to “punishing”) language as more approachable, although they do not perceive a course as easier (or more difficult) on the basis of such language.

Syllabi also provide an indicator, albeit an imperfect one, of the pedagogical strategies used by instructors. The next section will present an evaluation of syllabi for foreign policy analysis courses, including those focusing on US foreign policy, in an effort to gain some insight into the stated objectives of such courses, the pedagogies employed to achieve these objectives, as well as evaluation strategies and assigned readings. Although the syllabi analyzed here do not represent a random sample of foreign policy analysis courses globally, they do provide an initial insight into the current practices in teaching foreign policy analysis.

The State of the Foreign Policy Analysis Course

Syllabi cannot tell us everything about how foreign policy analysis is taught. Some pedagogical strategies will be evident from them because they involve scheduled activities or graded work that is outlined on the syllabus; others, such as the manner in which discussion draws students into the classroom conversation, are much more difficult to discern. Nevertheless, a survey of syllabi for foreign policy analysis courses provides at the very least a “rough guide” to the state of pedagogy in foreign policy analysis today.

In an effort to collect syllabi from a wide range of instructors at a variety of institutions in a variety of locations, the aid of the International Studies Association (ISA) was enlisted to communicate to members of the Foreign Policy Analysis section a request to share recent syllabi for courses in foreign policy analysis, comparative foreign policy, and US foreign policy. The request expressed an interest in syllabi for lower and upper division undergraduate courses, as well as syllabi for graduate courses. Moreover, the request indicated that the syllabi would be used to analyze trends in how the field is being taught and that the submitted syllabi would be treated confidentially. Hence, no instructor or university where a course is taught will be identified here. Only aggregate statistics will be reported.

A total of 69 foreign policy analysis syllabi were collected. The majority of those syllabi (92.8%) concerned courses taught at universities in the US, although several other countries were represented. A rather large variety of course titles was used. We coded as US foreign policy all those syllabi which employed some variation of US or American foreign policy as the course title, and coded as foreign policy analysis all those courses which used a course title indicating some variation on the theme of foreign policy analysis, comparative foreign policy, or the foreign policies of a larger or smaller number of countries. There are no syllabi focusing on a single country case other than the US in this sample. Of the total, 39 (or 56.5%) of the syllabi were for courses on US foreign policy and the remaining 30 (or 43.5%) for courses on foreign policy analysis. Seventeen (or 24.6%) of the syllabi were for graduate courses, 46 (or 66.7%) for upper division undergraduate courses (aimed at juniors and seniors), and 6 (or 8.7%) for lower division undergraduate courses (aimed at freshmen and sophomores). These data suggest that undergraduate foreign policy analysis courses are more likely to be taught as upper division courses, most likely following a basic introduction to international relations – although the latter type course was mentioned as a prerequisite in only one syllabus. With so few lower division foreign policy analysis courses, it makes little sense to report them as a separate category. Hence, the upper and lower division undergraduate courses are combined into data for undergraduate courses in the analyses.

First, all syllabi provide a statement of course objectives, but not all emphasize the same thing and some syllabi list multiple objectives. Overall, substantive knowledge of foreign policies is mentioned most frequently: 55 (or 79.7%) of the syllabi list this as a course objective, whereas 49 (or 71%) of the syllabi state that the course seeks to familiarize students with the theories and/or concepts of the field, and only 17 (or 24.6%) of the syllabi aim to teach students skills (such as research, analysis, critical thinking, written and/or oral communication). In light of the trend toward active learning pedagogies and demands for the assessment of learning outcomes identified in the previous section, this relative absence of a focus on skill building as a stated course objective is noteworthy.

There are some predictable patterns in the likelihood that a syllabus includes mention of theory, substance, or skills, as shown in Table 1, which divides all syllabi into those focused on US foreign policy versus foreign policy analysis, and those for undergraduate versus graduate courses. As might be expected, all syllabi for US foreign policy courses (39 or 100%) listed substantive knowledge of US foreign policy as an objective of the course, whereas only 16 (53.3%) of 30 syllabi on foreign policy analysis stated the acquisition of substantive knowledge as a course objective. In addition, undergraduate syllabi tended to be more likely to list the acquisition of substantive knowledge as a course objective (45 of 52, or 86.5%), whereas graduate syllabi were much more likely to list familiarity with theories and concepts as a course objective (15 of 17, or 88.2%). Furthermore, skills were mentioned more frequently in undergraduate than in graduate syllabi (26.9% versus 17.6%), and there was no significant difference between its mention in US foreign policy and foreign policy analysis syllabi.

Table 1 Educational objectives of the course

Objectives

Subject matter

Students

US foreign policy

Foreign policy analysis

Undergraduate

Graduate

Theories and/or concepts

20

29

34

15

(51.3%)

(96.7%)

(65.4%)

(88.2%)

Substantive knowledge

39

16

45

10

(100%)

(53.3%)

(86.5%)

(58.8%)

Skills (writing, speaking, critical thinking, analysis, etc.)

8

9

14

3

(20.5%)

(30%)

(26.9%)

(17.6%)

n

39

30

52

17

The relatively more frequent mention of substance versus theory in the course objectives of US foreign policy syllabi, and the more frequent mention of theory in foreign policy analysis and graduate syllabi, are intuitive. The much less frequent mention of skills among the course objectives is notable. The present data cannot tell us why this is so. It may be a function of the degree to which the major and university curricula have been consciously designed to focus on skill building as well as the acquisition of substantive and theoretical knowledge. It could also simply mean that curriculum design is not made visible in the language presented in the syllabus, either by design or simple omission.

The syllabi do reliably mention elements associated with the teaching strategies employed in the course, as well as the techniques employed to evaluate student performance. These aspects of the syllabi are presented in Table 2. As might be expected, attendance is stressed more frequently in undergraduate courses – 35 (67.3%) syllabi mention it – whereas participation in seminar discussions is mentioned in almost all graduate syllabi (16 of 17 or 94.1%). What is noteworthy is that half of the undergraduate syllabi contain a discussion component (26 of 52 syllabi).

The two categories may appear to be similar, so some explanation of the coding is warranted: syllabi were coded for the presence or absence of each of the pedagogical elements in Table 2. “Attendance/participation” reflects the presence of a statement requiring attendance, or a statement that conflates attendance and participation into one element. In many such cases, it is unclear from the syllabus whether participation is measured by anything beyond attendance. “Class/seminar discussion participation,” on the other hand, reflects an explicit requirement that students participate in discussions. The presence of such a requirement could take several different forms, such as scheduled debates, class time devoted to discussions of cases, but also seminar discussions led by either the instructor or one of the students. Although it might have been preferable to have a separate measure for the use of case teaching method, it was not always clear from the requirements stated in the syllabi whether discussion reflected the case teaching method or a broader definition of in-class discussion. Hence, all discussion-type pedagogical strategies were combined into one category. However, discussion in each case references a component of the course that explicitly requires students to participate in ways that clearly go beyond simply attending class sessions and asking an occasional question.

Table 2 Teaching strategies and evaluation techniques

Undergraduate

Graduate

All

Attendance/participation

35

5

40

(67.3%)

(29.4%)

(58%)

Class/seminar discussion participation

26

16

42

(50%)

(94.1%)

(60.9%)

Scheduled examinations (one or more)

43

9

52

(82.7%)

(52.9%)

(75.4%)

Unannounced quizzes

6

0

6

(11.5%)

(8.7%)

(Short) papers on course readings

27

11

38

(51.9%)

(64.7%)

(55.1%)

Papers requiring literature beyond common course readings (one or more)

40

14

54

(76.9%)

(82.4%)

(78.3%)

Formal/prepared in-class presentation

18

9

27

(34.6%)

(52.9%)

(39.1%)

Participation in simulation

6

0

6

(11.5%)

(8.7%)

Group project

4

0

4

(7.7%)

(5.8%)

n

52

17

69

Formal presentations, which usually entail sharing with the class the research completed for a paper that required students to investigate a topic (or the literature in a specific area of investigation) beyond the material assigned for the course, were a requirement mentioned more often in graduate than undergraduate courses. Just over half of the graduate syllabi (9 or 52.9%) included this element, whereas a little over one-third of the undergraduate syllabi (18 or 34.6%) included it. Formal presentations can be seen as an exercise that enables students to hone their skill at public speaking, but they are not often identified as such in the syllabi. In fact, formal presentations are a required element in 27 (or 39.1%) syllabi overall, whereas only 17 (or 24.6%) of the syllabi mention skill building.

Compared to the frequent presence of simulations in the pages of ISP, it is disappointing to see how few syllabi actually include such an exercise. Only 6 syllabi (8.7% of the total) mentioned simulations as an aspect of the course. All six were syllabi for undergraduate courses. Although the research cited above indicates that simulations are well suited to teaching students empathy, and may be well suited to undergraduate instruction, they also require a lot of preparation and organization. Whether this or other reasons best explain their relative absence among foreign policy analysis courses cannot be ascertained from the syllabi. A variety of reasons may motivate instructors to forgo this active learning pedagogy: the anticipated class size may be too large to manage a simulation, the instructor may lack the resources or facilities to run one, or he or she may decide in favor of focusing on broader coverage of material (i.e., focus on knowledge acquisition) rather than emphasizing skill building. Such decisions are likely motivated in part by the institutional context. Further study will be required to determine which of these, or perhaps other factors, best explain the relative absence of simulations in foreign policy analysis syllabi. Of course, it is also possible that simulations were included in some of the courses but not mentioned in the syllabus.

Another innovative pedagogy – that of a group project – is also employed infrequently. Only 4 of the 69 syllabi (or 5.8%) mention this as an element of the course. Group projects require students to engage in collaborative learning and are also a skill building exercise in that they teach students to function as a team member – a role that they are quite likely to encounter in their work life after college. There are other teaching techniques that also enable students to practice teamwork (e.g., simulations), but collaborative learning does not appear to occupy a large role in foreign policy analysis syllabi.

There is a much more substantial emphasis on individual assignments, most notably the one or more papers that require students to research a particular topic in depth and beyond its coverage in the required readings for the course. More than three-quarters (40 or 76.9%) of the undergraduate syllabi require such work and most (14 or 82.4%) of the graduate syllabi do. Further, more than half of the syllabi require students to write short papers, often requiring analysis and critique, in response to the assigned readings. Although such assignments are slightly more prevalent in graduate syllabi (11 or 64.7%), they are surprisingly frequently mentioned in undergraduate syllabi (27 or 51.9%). This may be due to the prevalence of upper division courses in foreign policy analysis.

Lastly, syllabi frequently list one or more examinations. This is the case for 43 (or 82.7%) of undergraduate and 9 (or 52.9%) of graduate syllabi. Although one undergraduate syllabus indicated that students would take four examinations, the most frequently mentioned number of examinations for undergraduate courses is two – usually a midterm and a final. The most frequent number of examinations listed in graduate syllabi is one. In addition, none of the graduate syllabi mentioned unannounced quizzes and only 6 (or 11.5%) of the undergraduate syllabi either promised or threatened such quizzes.

These findings are not particularly surprising, but they do lend empirical support to several observations about the state of pedagogy. First, these foreign policy analysis syllabi indicate that the traditional lecture format is frequently supplemented with active learning pedagogies. Among these, various formats that facilitate discussion are most popular and other active learning pedagogies are employed much less frequently. This, in essence, represents a conservative shift in the direction of active learning pedagogies: the techniques most often employed (such as various discussion formats) require different, and more, preparation than traditional lecture formats, but do not require the extensive preparation needed to successfully implement a simulation. This preference for discussion formats rather than simulations may reflect the availability of resources and facilities, institutional incentives, the anticipated class size, or other constraints. It is impossible to ascertain this from the syllabi, and further investigation is required to determine the motivation to adopt or shy away from specific pedagogies.

Second, foreign policy analysis syllabi maintain a preference for work that requires individual rather than group effort. Research papers, shorter papers that critically analyze the course readings, formal presentations, and examinations all emphasize individual effort. This is perhaps not surprising. A recent study of three prestigious international relations journals (Breuning et al. 2005) found that almost two-thirds (65.6%) of all articles published over a ten year period (1995–2004) were single authored. From this, it appears that scholarship in the discipline maintains an emphasis on individual effort that one might expect to find reflected in pedagogies as well. Additionally, education at all levels has traditionally judged students in terms of their individual accomplishments, and there is no reason to expect that foreign policy analysis syllabi (or higher education in general) would deviate dramatically from such patterns. Yet, there is also a growing recognition that many work environments require the ability to collaborate with others. This means that students would benefit from pedagogies that require them to work as a member of a team (Goleman et al. 2004). To date, few foreign policy analysis syllabi incorporate learning objectives and/or pedagogical strategies to this end. Whether or not they should is a matter that is open to debate.

Thirdly, foreign policy analysis is increasingly taught at the undergraduate level, albeit more often as an upper division than introductory course. In the past, foreign policy analysis was almost exclusively the domain of graduate level courses. At the undergraduate level, the focus tended to be on US foreign policy. One possible explanation for the emergence of (upper division) undergraduate courses on foreign policy analysis is the recent publication of textbooks for courses taught at this level. Previously, instructors wishing to teach foreign policy analysis to undergraduates were forced to rely on books and journal articles that were not designed for undergraduate education.

What Syllabi Say (Undergraduate) Students Should Read

Classroom instruction in foreign policy analysis builds on the effort by students outside the class or seminar room. Such effort is not limited to a list of common readings students are expected to complete, but the syllabi in this sample all included a set of assigned course readings. The nature as well as the quantity of those readings showed quite a bit of variation, and also some predictable patterns. As shown in Table 3, it is rare for a foreign policy analysis course to rely on one single textbook. Just 3 of the 69 syllabi (or 4.3% of the total) required one primary text. All of these were undergraduate syllabi. A rather substantial proportion of all courses (43 or 62.3%), and the largest proportion of graduate courses (15 or 88.2%), relied on a collection of readings that included books, book chapters, journal articles, and the like. Although 28 (53.8%) undergraduate syllabi relied on collections of readings, often including academic journal articles, a substantial proportion of undergraduate syllabi listed multiple books (21 or 40.4%) and did not rely on chapters and/or journal articles. If multiple books were assigned, among them was usually at least one textbook. Syllabi also often included other types of narratives, such as Yetiv’s (2004) theory informed case study of US decision making in the Persian Gulf War, either alone or in combination with a textbook.

The fact that more than half (28 or 53.8%) of undergraduate courses rely on collections of readings is largely due to the strong propensity of undergraduate foreign policy analysis syllabi to do so (see Table 4). Of the 52 undergraduate syllabi, 34 were for US foreign policy courses and 18 for foreign policy analysis courses. Of those, 38.2% (or 13) of the undergraduate US foreign policy syllabi rely on collections of readings, but 83.3% (or 15) of the foreign policy analysis syllabi do so. This may reflect the desire of instructors to tailor their courses either to the interests of their audience or to the strengths of their own scholarship, but it is equally likely to reflect the fact that foreign policy analysis texts targeted at undergraduates are relatively recent.

Table 3 Type of assigned course readings

Undergraduate

Graduate

All

Primary textbook

3

0

3

(5.8%)

(4.3%)

Multiple textbooks or other books

21

2

23

(40.4%)

(11.8%)

(33.3%)

Books, chapters, journal articles, etc.

28

15

43

(53.8%)

(88.2%)

(62.3%)

n

52

17

69

Table 4 Reading assignments in undergraduate syllabi

US foreign policy

Foreign policy analysis

All undergraduate

Primary textbook

2

1

3

(5.9%)

(5.6%)

(5.8%)

Multiple textbooks or other books

19

2

21

(55.9%)

(11.1%)

(40.4%)

Books, chapters, journal articles, etc.

13

15

28

(38.2%)

(83.3%)

(53.8%)

n

34

18

52

Indeed, many of the US foreign policy texts are books that have a longstanding presence in the field and have gone through multiple editions. Of the 16 such texts identified from the sample of syllabi, 11 are in their second or higher edition. The text with the greatest longevity (Hook and Spanier 2007) is in its 17th edition. In contrast, most of the foreign policy analysis texts in this sample of syllabi are in their first editions. For example, books by Breuning and by Hudson both date from 2007, whereas a text by Neack first appeared in 2003. A second edition of the Neack book appeared in July 2008 and is too recent to appear in the syllabi analyzed here. The reason for the difference in the longevity of US foreign policy and foreign policy analysis textbooks is that the latter subject was not traditionally taught at the undergraduate level. Hence, there were fewer course adoptions and fewer books sold overall, making it less attractive for publishers to produce subsequent editions.

Although collections of readings akin to those used in graduate education may appear to be an attractive option under these circumstances, such readings are frequently less optimal for achieving undergraduate learning objectives – unless foreign policy analysis courses build on knowledge acquired in other courses placed in a structured and sequenced program of study that clearly aims at cumulative learning (Wahlke 1991). Students who are unfamiliar with basic concepts often struggle to make sense of scholarly articles. Challenging students is good, but permitting them to drown in the deep end of the pool when they have not yet mastered basic swimming skills is not conducive to either learning or lighting a passion for the subject. Hence, the recent wave of foreign policy analysis texts, mostly aimed at various stages of undergraduate education, is a welcome development.

The textbooks included in the syllabi in this sample each have different strengths. Table 5 provides an overview of the relative emphasis of these books on the basis of an investigation of the tables of contents of each. Do note that the selection of books discussed here is not exhaustive. There are other books, some of which were published after the syllabi were collected, such as Smith et al.’s (2008) Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases. This overview of textbooks is limited to those books that were assigned in the sample of syllabi employed in this project. Additionally, Ikenberry’s (2004) classic in US foreign policy and Neack et al.’s (1995) seminal text in foreign policy analysis were excluded because I could not ascertain that these are still in print. For a deeper analysis of a smaller sample of US foreign policy textbooks, see Grove (2003).

Table 5 Comparison of US foreign policy and foreign policy analysis textbooks

Authors/editors/edition

Year of current edn.

Total pages

Emphasis

General introduction

General conclusion

History

Process

Issues

Total chapters

US foreign policy

Ambrose and Brinkley, 8th

1997

480

1

18

19

Cameron

2005

256

2

2

4

3

11

Carter, 3rd

2007

455

1

15

16

Chittick

2006

538

1

1

3

7

3

15

Hastedt, 7th

2009

448

1

1

1

6

8

17

Hook, 2nd

2008

399

1

1

7

3

12

Hook and Spanier, 17th

2007

388

1

8

5

14

Jentleson, 3rd

2007

626

1

3

2

5

11

Lieber

2002

352

1

2

13

16

McCormick, 4th

2005

640

1

1

5

6

13

Magstadt

2004

242

1

1

7

9

Ray

2007

375

2

5

2

5

14

Rosati and Scott, 4th

2007

524

1

1

1

14

17

Snow, 3rd

2005

432

1

8

5

14

Wittkopf and McCormick, 5th

2007

440

24

24

Wittkopf et al., 7th

2008

672

2

1

1

11

15

Foreign policy analysis

Beasley et al.

2002

347

1

1

13

15

Breuning

2007

220

1

1

5

7

Hill

2003

416

2

1

8

11

Hook

2002

288

1

10

11

Hudson

2007

234

1

2

5

8

Neack

2003

256

1

1

3

5

In all, the analysis in this essay is based on 16 US foreign policy and six foreign policy analysis texts. Six of the US foreign policy books (Cameron 2005; McCormick 2005; Snow 2005; Jentleson 2007; Ray 2007; Hastedt 2009) seek to achieve a balance by familiarizing students with a mix of historical background, the decision making process (broadly defined), and (current) issues – mostly favoring two of the three rather than providing a genuine balance among all three elements. The remaining 10 books place their emphasis on one of these three approaches to the study of US foreign policy, in some cases to the exclusion of any attention to the remaining approaches: three texts emphasize history (Ambrose and Brinkley 1997; Magstadt 2004; Hook and Spanier 2007), four emphasize the decision making process (Chittick 2006; Rosati and Scott 2007; Hook 2008; Wittkopf et al. 2008), and three texts emphasis issues or problems (Lieber 2002; Carter 2007; Wittkopf and McCormick 2007). Of these last three, one book (Carter 2007) is specifically designed for the case teaching method.

Given the distinct differences among the books, it is not surprising that instructors often favor combining two or more books as required reading on their syllabi. On the other hand, these differences between the various texts designed for US foreign policy courses also permit instructors to design their course to achieve learning objectives appropriate to their student body, the level at which the course is taught, and the course’s place in the major or wider university curriculum.

There is less variation in the approaches favored by the books designed for foreign policy analysis courses. Four of the six books focus on process (Hill 2003; Neack 2003; Breuning 2007; Hudson 2007) and two on country case studies (Beasley et al. 2002; Hook 2002). The differences between the former books are not so much in the overall approach as in the relative emphasis placed on various aspects of the foreign policy analysis literature, as well as the comprehensiveness of that coverage. Hill’s (2003) book is the most all encompassing among these and perhaps best suited to also cross over into graduate education. The texts by Breuning (2007), Hudson (2007), and Neack (2003; 2008) are more accessible than Hill’s book. Each of these three books is conceptual in focus but also bridges the gap between substance and theory. In doing so, these books encourage students to start thinking theoretically. On the other hand, Beasley et al. (2002) and Hook (2002) each present a number of country case studies that help students to familiarize themselves with basic trends in the foreign policies of a variety of countries but do less to encourage students to start thinking theoretically. Here, too, the merits of one text over another will depend largely on the learning objectives of the course, the level at which it is taught, and its place in the wider major or university curriculum.

The foreign policy analysis texts are substantially shorter, on average, than the US foreign policy books: the average length of the former is just under 294 pages, whereas the average length of the latter is just over 445 pages. This difference is likely to be an indication that the US foreign policy books are designed as core texts, whereas the foreign policy analysis texts are kept shorter so they may also be used as supplementary texts in more general introductory courses in international relations.

Unanswered Questions and Usable Knowledge

Pedagogy in foreign policy analysis does not stand wholly apart from pedagogy in international studies and/or political science. Rather, the context of either discipline provides foreign policy analysis courses with an important raison d’être. It is only within these contexts, as well as the university curriculum more broadly, that the learning objectives of individual courses can be articulated and evaluated. Although some very worthwhile research has been done in this area, there is still much left to do.

Pedagogy in foreign policy analysis, and international studies more broadly, is hampered by a lack of empirical work that helps evaluate the merits of the various teaching strategies and by inconsistent findings among the empirical work that does exist. Although a few studies indicate that traditional methods of instruction do as well as active learning pedagogies in achieving the acquisition of knowledge, other studies suggest that simulations and the case method facilitate better retention of material than the traditional lecture format. We know much less about the pedagogies best suited to the acquisition of essential skills. There is some indication that simulations are particularly well suited to teaching empathy and that the case method helps develop analytical skills.

The evidence we have accumulated suggests that active learning pedagogies must be taken seriously, and that we would do well to incorporate them into the curriculum as well as foreign policy analysis courses. Further studies providing evidence of the suitability of specific pedagogical techniques for achieving specifically targeted learning outcomes would constitute highly desirable additions to the literature. Such research would help strengthen the foundation upon which curricula can be designed that permit students to achieve cumulative learning across the various courses they complete as part of their international studies or political science program of study.

Within political science, there is a longstanding call not only for purposive program design but also an explicitly structured major (e.g., AACU 1991; Wahlke 1991) with, as its central objective, the achievement of cumulative learning and skill building across the courses taken to fulfill the requirements of the major. Within international studies there has been some investigation into program structure (Ishiyama and Breuning 2004; Brown et al. 2006), but also debate about the desirability of creating explicitly structured programs (Breuning and Ishiyama 2004; Hey 2004). Ultimately, however, the call for a structured curriculum – and the attendant well-defined learning outcomes – should enable international studies to gain increasing relevance. The field is particularly well positioned to teach the substantive and theoretical knowledge essential to the international environment of the twenty-first century.

More importantly, foreign policy analysis is eminently suited to fostering in students the vital skills – such as the ability to empathize with, and think in terms of, multiple perspectives – that will permit them to navigate successfully in the diverse and international/intercultural environments that are likely to increasingly become the norm.

The place of foreign policy analysis should be at the front of this curriculum: the actor-centered nature of the field makes it an attractive introduction to the study of international affairs. Thinking from an actor-centered perspective is intuitively appealing to many students and is more likely to draw them into the exciting world of international relations than the conventional approach which starts with an overview of the major theoretical perspectives of the field. Students, in the final analysis, are much like policy makers whose “eyes […] glaze over at the first mention of the word ‘theory’ in conversation” (George 1993:xviii; see also Deibel 2002) because they do not yet know why theory matters.

Foreign policy analysis is uniquely suited to introduce students to the idea that actors and events are not entirely unique phenomena, but instead can be classified into categories that share similarities, that those categories might lead to expectations about the predispositions of actors or the outcomes of events, and that such expectations can be empirically evaluated and become the basis for generalizable knowledge – or theoretical propositions – about foreign policy. Students will not become interested in theory until they grasp its usefulness for understanding foreign policy, as well as international relations more generally. Discussion of the dominant theoretical perspectives of international relations can wait. Enticing students to learn about foreign policy making and the problems confronting our world cannot.

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Acknowledgments

I wish to thank the many colleagues who shared their syllabi: without their cooperation, this essay could not have been written. This essay has benefited also from useful comments and suggestions provided by Andrea Gerlak, Chuck Hermann, Steve Hook, Valerie Hudson, and Pat James, as well as two anonymous reviewers.