I have studied the international system for almost two decades and, for the past seven years, I have taught within the Politics Department at Kingston University, London.
During this time, I have tried to help students grapple with the complexities and nuances of the international system. In doing so, I have developed a range of teaching strategies designed to meet the needs of Kingston’s diverse student body and engender the critical thinking required to interpret and analyse events.
These strategies vary between the heavy use of technology to seminars taught in a low-tech manner. Particularly popular, technology-wise, has been the use of YouTube and Box of Broadcast playlists and ‘Docu-Film Mashup’.
I use playlists to draw together disparate materials that focus on a central theme, whether it be an IR Theory, a commodity such as oil, or a specific conflict. I have found that they are a fantastic means of opening up debate among students and supplementing academic readings.
In ‘Docu-Film Mashup’ sessions, I string together short-clips from films and documentaries to create a narrative centred on a specific topic. I also attempt to innovate with low tech means. Perhaps my favourite such innovation is a session called ‘String Theory’. In this session students visualise theoretical models with string, blank paper and pens. This session is very popular and always leads to lots of high energy debate and creativity.
Receiving the BISA Excellence in Teaching International Studies by a Postgraduate Student Award was important in two ways: professionally and personally.
On a professional level, as a result of receiving the award I was invited to sit on a teaching and learning panel at the 2016 BISA conference in Edinburgh. This has helped building my confidence in speaking at conferences. Equally importantly, it helped me network with others interested in the development of teaching methods within the international studies field. More broadly, receiving the award helped further develop my confidence in the classroom.
On a personal level, the award meant a great deal. Since beginning teaching, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of engaging with students of all backgrounds and (hope) I have enabled many of my students to become better academics and critical thinkers. Receiving external validation was a brilliant confidence boost and I have continued to develop my teaching practice since receiving the award.
Whilst winning the award was fantastic, the process of putting my application together was useful in and of itself as it encouraged me to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of my teaching.
At a time when the international system seems to be reformulating itself at a blistering pace, taking the time to reflect on the way I teach it was a valuable process. Perhaps most importantly, however, the award gave me the confidence to continue innovating in the classroom.
In short, I would encourage all those considering putting themselves forward for the award in 2018 to do so.
Click here for more information on the Postgraduate Excellence in Teaching International Studies Prize.
Peter Finn is a Lecturer in Politics within the Politics Department at Kingston University, London. He has recently submitted his PhD thesis, which focuses on impunity within a democratic context. His most recent publication is: Finn, P. Grey Areas and Self-Licking Lollipops: Iraq War Detention Operations, Impunity and Complicity. in Afxentiou, A.; Dunford, R.; Neu, M. (eds) (2017) Exploring Complicity: Concepts, Cases and Critique. Rowman & Littlefield: London. pp. 179-201.