24 March 2014

Playing 4Cs with The Causes of Internal Conflict (Brown 1997) in IB Global Politics

Today's class featured a synthesis & debriefing activity from one of my favorite introductory readings on internal conflict, Brown, M. E. (1997). The causes of internal conflict. In Nationalism and ethnic conflict (pp. 3-25). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. I've used the Brown chapter in a high school setting for many years; whether it was for IB History, our before-school seminar on the Causes of War and Peace, Comparative Genocide, and now in IB Global Politics. I've always found that students rise to the occasion and have a go at readings such as this when you engage the students with challenging material (I only tell them afterwards about the context and audience for these types of readings) in a supportive environment where we get to discuss, analyze, and unpack authors' ideas. I've had more than a few students go on to undergraduate and grad school programs in IR and PoliSci who will write to me saying something to the effect of, "XYZ article is on the syllabus this term. I was was the only one in the class who understood this because we read it together in high school." Besides, its always fun to go back and review articles, chapters, and books I found so meaningful when I had the luxury of studying IR full time. 

We used a modified version of Thagi's 4Cs activity to apply our understanding of the Brown reading in a jigsawed context. Students were grouped into 4 teams and asked to develop a team understanding of what are the componentscharacteristics, challenges of, or characters in internal conflict. Once the table consensus had been reached, team members then interviewed their colleagues from other groups in order gather their ideas on the respective topics. Finally, groups reconvened in their original teams to provide a synthesis statement regarding their understanding of their assigned categories.


I would certainly use this activity again, although it really should be run in a class period that lasts more than an hour. I also think that while 4Cs was an effective vehicle for students to connect their understanding of Brown (which we read in class on Friday & over the weekend) as well as their other readings, the activity could also be used to extend students' understanding of source material (text or video) or as an introductory exploration of a topic prior to a simulation, investigation, or interaction with course material.