Teaching about Global Complexity: Experiential Conflict Resolution Pedagogy in Higher Education Classrooms

AuthorAgnieszka Paczynska,Arthur Romano,Susan F. Hirsch
Date01 March 2017
Published date01 March 2017
C R Q, vol. 34, no. 3, Spring 2017 255
© 2016 Association for Confl ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21174
Teaching about Global Complexity:
Experiential Con ict Resolution Pedagogy
in Higher Education Classrooms
Arthur Romano
Susan F. Hirsch
Agnieszka Paczynska
is article examines the utility of experiential learning activities
( ELAs ) for teaching about global complexity and confl ict resolution
in higher education classrooms. It focuses on two key concepts: the
nexus between global and local and the precarity experienced within
global processes. Research on two ELAs , a multisession simulation and
a single-session image analysis, each designed for use in confl ict resolu-
tion courses, produced extensive data on student learning.  e analy-
sis presented demonstrates that for many students, the ELAs resulted
in greater engagement with course materials, more nuanced under-
standings of global complexity, and increased ability to link theory to
I n the past two decades, scholars have produced increasingly nuanced
analytical tools for understanding global processes in order to bet-
ter refl ect the dynamic twenty-fi rst-century context.  ese sophisticated
insights create an important pedagogical challenge in engaging with global
complexity, particularly in the confl ict eld. In this article, we argue that
experiential learning pedagogy off ers relevant, eff ective, and engaging
approaches to teaching about global complexity in higher education class-
rooms. Our discussion examines the eff ectiveness of two experiential learn-
ing activities (ELAs) designed for use in confl ict courses.
Rather than depicting global processes as primarily unidirectional,
whereby changes at the global level prefi gure local dynamics, scholars now
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
use concepts such as global complexity (Urry 2003 ), liquid modernity
( Bauman 2000 ), and precarity (Butler 2007 ) , which assume a complex
and dynamic relationship between the global and local. While useful,
texts and lectures that discuss global processes are often abstract and can
be diffi cult for undergraduate students to digest. Instructors then must
nd eff ective ways to engage undergraduates so that they more fully grasp
the dynamic and contingent nature of the global, including the nexus of
the global and the local.
Recent research suggests that one way to acquaint learners with the
complexity of global processes is to off er opportunities for students
to study abroad and refl ect critically on their direct experiences with
complex global processes (Berg, Page, and Hemming 2012 ; Brewer,
Cunningham, and Green 2010 ; Cress, Collier, and Reitenauer 2013 ).
Although such experiences are valuable, signifi cant logistical, motiva-
tional, and fi nancial constraints put them beyond the reach of most
students. We therefore argue that the so-called traditional classroom
setting is a key site for teaching undergraduates about global complex-
ity. Eff ectively engaging students in deepening their understanding of
global complexity in the classroom setting, however, necessitates peda-
gogical innovation.
In the interdisciplinary fi eld of confl ict analysis and resolution (CAR),
pedagogical approaches that allow students to appreciate global complexity
are particularly important given the fi eld s focus on preparing students to
engage with confl icts in an interconnected world. Increasingly, the CAR
eld has recognized that most confl icts operate simultaneously at local,
regional, and global levels.  e eld s relatively short history includes con-
siderable pedagogical innovation, including incorporating simulations,
role plays, experiential learning, and refl ective learning into the traditional
classroom, as well as developing multiple models of fi eld-based courses
(Kelly and Fetherston 2008 ).
In this article, we focus our discussion on two ELAs, “Adding Fuel
to the Fire: A Resource-Based International Negotiation Role Play” and
“Mediated Perceptions: An Introduction to Frame Analysis,” which were
developed by a faculty-student team at George Mason University s School
for Confl ict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) for use in confl ict courses.
e primary authors of the ELAs are Lori-Ann Stephensen (“Mediated
Perceptions”) and Ned Lazarus,  anos Gatsias, and Gul Gur (“Adding
Fuel to the Fire”). ( ese activities are available online at http://scar.gmu
.edu/experientiallearningproject/11613 .)

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