Introduction to International Studies Syllabus

One of our goals for this website is make as many resources as possible available for faculty teaching an “Introduction to Global Studies” or “Introduction to International Studies” course. Here is the syllabus for the course that I taught this spring. If you click on the teaching tag on the word cloud to the right, you’ll also find earlier posts that related to the class, such as the rubric I used, the chocolate tasting assignment (very popular as you might expect), a map on security, and the first day quiz. I’ve also posted on free video resources for the class, and useful websites. …

Video Resources for Global/International Studies

This summer I am teaching one of my favorite classes on the Amazon Rainforest. The class covers ecology, cultural globalization, native peoples, film, urban development, history and economics. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed teaching it is to be able to talk about the Amazon in film and literature. But I’ve also found a great video resource. The website Top Documentary Films contains free films for either class or personal use. I’m planning to use clips from the Fight for the Amazon series, which looks at environmental and social issues in the Amazon. “Raids in the Rainforest” follows the young director of Brazil’s national park system as she tries to protect her parks.  This would be a great choice for an environmental section of an introductory class. “The Justice Boat” looks at a traveling judge, who travels on boat to remote areas of the Amazon to bring the state to the riverdwellers. It would be a good choice for a class that dealt with the role of the state in the developing world. Finally, “The Internet Indians” examines how indigenous peoples (the Ashaninka) are using the internet to defend their interests. It would be a good choice for a class dealing with either the environment or cultural globalization. Another great choice on that topic would be the Youtube video on Google’s collaboration with the Surui, called “Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops.” This brief (around seven minute) clip is a pick me up that tends to cheer up students during classes that can sometimes cover very dark topics. …

Rubrics for Teaching International/Global Studies

I’ve only begun using rubrics for grading during the last year, but I’ve quickly come to believe that they are a better way to give student feedback. They do take time to prepare. But I have been sharing the rubrics with students beforehand, and I believe that the students’ work is of a better quality as a result. Students have fewer questions about their grades, and the grading process itself is quicker, more consistent and clearer. I know that many faculty have been using rubrics for a decade, so I am a latecomer to the trend. But it’s interesting to me that the students themselves are now asking for the rubrics for assignments. I am giving an example of a study guide for the midterm below, then a copy of the rubric for it, which was based on Kim’s work. If you want more materials, be sure to explore our teacher’s manual. Here are the study guide and the rubric: …

Chocolate Tasting: A Class Activity

This quarter I am teaching the “Introduction to International Studies” class, and this week we were talking about food. I always find that students enjoy this week, in part because crops form part of clear commodity chains so that every student can see the connection between themselves and food producers globally. I’ve also adopted a classroom assignment developed by my friend, Kim Brown, which is quite popular- the chocolate tasting. Later in the class I lectured on bioterrorism and cacao in Brazil, which I’ve also covered in an earlier post here. I also showed Robert Beckford’s clever documentary video on rice, chocolate and gold production, which available for free online. The food unit follows a section on development theories. Beckford’s film was engaging for students, but he also tied events in Africa to IMF/World Bank policies, as well as the global trading system, which makes it a good fit for the class. But before I arrived at the core content of the class, I first did the chocolate tasting.

Picture by Suat Eman at freedigitalphotos.net

I went to my local New Seasons market, where I purchased raw cacao beans. After some taste testing, my daughters gave me the strong advice not to give this to students without some honey to sweeten it. The food court gave me some latex gloves to break up chocolate bars. And World Market had a wide selection of chocolate bars with different levels of cacao. I broke up the chocolate into small blocks on paper towels and called up the class up by rows. We started with the cacao beans. Students were a little hesitant to bite them because the outer shell looks so hard. I explained that these beans were from Ecuador or Peru, the original homeland of cacao, and were used as money in ancient MesoAmerica. After tasting the cacao beans (a few student genuinely liked them, but they weren’t very popular), students then moved to chocolate which had chiles. The ancient Aztecs drank a mix of chiles and chocolate, which was reserved for the elites. It must have been popular- traces of chocolate have been found on the inside of pottery containers found in the U.S. Southwest, where it doubtless was brought on foot. After that the students were able to sample chocolate with different levels of cacao (or cocoa- the term is spelled both ways). The 70% cacao level seemed most popular, while everyone thought the 90% was too bitter (although I favor that with single malt scotch). The class had fun, and nobody took too much chocolate. Many students would break even the small amount of chocolate that I had put out in half. There was a lot of laughter as people watched their friends’ faces as they ate the cacao beans.

I deliberately chose dark chocolate, so that students who were lactose intolerant could take part. But I also warned the students that almost all the chocolate bars said that they were processed in a facility that also handled “milk, nuts and wheat.” If you can have someone help you break up the chocolate (thank you to my amazing graduate assistant) it makes the preparation much easier. …

Realism and Human Security: A Map of U.S. Security Interests

Last week in my class we focused on security issues, and I compared and contrasted two powerful approaches in the field: Realism and Human Security. Realism is an older approach to security, which claims to have historical roots that stretch back to Thucydides, but perhaps truly began with E.H. Carr in the 1930s. Because of the theory’s richness it is difficult to summarize briefly, and it has evolved through time. But in general, its proponents argue that security is the key issue in international affairs. They also generally share a pessimistic view of human nature, and of the inevitability of war. Realists also view the international system as anarchic, in the sense that they doubt the ability of international law to limit conflict. Realism focuses on threats to the nation-state rather than populations, relies on the military as the key instrument in security, and draws on the usual tools of state-craft, such as alliance formation and power balancing. …

International Studies Quiz

This spring quarter I am teaching “Introduction to International Studies,” and it’s fun to be able to use our textbook. The first day of class I always divide the students into groups of three to five, and give then twelve minutes to complete a brief quiz about global affairs. It’s not graded, and I make a point of including a couple of ridiculous questions so that nobody takes it too seriously. But it begins to create a sense of community in the class, and generally leads to some laughter. So here is my quiz, if you’re curious to try it yourself: …

More websites for teaching International and Global Studies

Since I last posted some suggested websites to the blog, I’ve learned about several others that are useful for an introductory class in International and Global Studies. I’ve tried to focus on sites that emphasize analysis or resources rather than news, with the exception of one suggestion from The New York Times:

Financial Crisis:

Some students are visual learners. For those trying to understand current economic news in Europe, the New York Times has a set of interactive graphics that convey relative GDP, and debt flows, to make sense of the crisis. …

Websites for teaching International and Global Studies

Because international affairs can change so quickly, websites are a key tool in an introductory class, both to keep up to date, and to find resources for students. In our Teacher’s Manual, we list some helpful sites but here is a longer list that you might want to explore:


My thanks go to my colleague, Dr. Stephen Frenkel, for sharing what I think is one of the most fascinating websites for International and Global Studies. Gapminder advertises itself as creating a “fact-based” view of the world. Don’t let the reference to statistics make you think that it might be inaccessible for beginning students though. Its resources range from detailed information on equality to videos on everything from population growth to democracy. Check out the resources under the “For Teachers” link. Explore it yourself: http://www.gapminder.org/

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