Kachuyevski, Angela, Sandra F. Jones. (2011) Bringing Theory to Life Through Field Study. International Studies Perspectives, doi: 10.1111/j.1528-3585.2011.00444.x
© 2011 International Studies Association
Exercises that encourage active and direct participation by students are often seen as a way to bridge the theory of classroom learning and the outside world. While most of the attention devoted to incorporating effective active learning strategies in the international relations classroom has focused on simulations, we argue that short field studies abroad, embedded in a regular course, are an excellent tool for bringing concepts and theories studied in class to life. We developed a course on minority rights and ethnic conflict that included a one-week field study in Ukraine. Through visits to international institutions and historic, strategic, and cultural sites, students see how theories of conflict management and human and minority rights are reflected in policy. The classroom program supports and reinforces student learning by preparing them to critically analyze information they encounter while abroad. The in-country experience supports and reinforces the formal learning on campus by making the theories and historical readings more meaningful. Through short-term field studies, we argue that students are able to grasp sophisticated theoretical arguments and make the connection between theory and policy, enriching their understanding of the world in which they live. Our experience has special relevance to teaching in international affairs, as we explore how to capitalize on short-term experiences abroad to deepen and broaden student learning about the world.