Last year, at this time, I wrote about my first experiences in the new online teaching free-for-all era. Besides no longer using Corona, what else have I learned from teaching online? [Note, I have only taught five classes so my observations are based on impressions and thin anecdata]
In less than a month, I’ll be teaching “Introduction to International Relations” for the first time in over ten years. As luck (for certain values of “luck”) would have it, this means I’m building a 100-200 person course from scratch and teaching it online. But where some might see a yawning black pit of despair, I see a yawning black pit of despair… and opportunity. Why not experiment a bit?
I know a lot of professors are thinking this way, so at the start of the summer some of us talked about working together to produce shareable content. We had plans! We had pants to match! And massive coordination problems.
So about a week ago, as I looked down into that black pit, I decided “screw this, I’m going to email lots of friends and see if they’ll record interviews with me. I’ll make it more appealing by putting the results online in an archive. That way anyone can download interviews and integrate excerpts from them into their lectures, class videos, or whatever.”
Shockingly enough, it turns out that academics and practitioners generally like to talk about their work, as well as their career paths. I’ve recorded something like 12 interviews over six days, and have a lot more scheduled.
But it’s been a haphazard process, driven in no small measure by my specific needs for my class. And all that video is useless to anyone else if it’s not processed, and useless to me if I don’t have time to put the course together. So I’ve been teaming up with people, gotten help from an RA, and come to the conclusion that this is the kind of project that works best if it’s crowdsourced.
Enter this post, which serves to announce “The Interviews for Teaching World Politics Project.” (It’s the worst title I’ve ever used for anything, and believe me, that’s a very high bar to cross). Below is a version 1.0 of the project summary. You can also read it via this link, where you will also be able to navigate to the archive and see the two sample videos we’ve got up.
“The Interviews for Teaching World Politics Project” aims to develop a large database of video interviews – currently conducted on Zoom at 720p in .mp4 format – with international-relations scholars and practitioners.
The interviews are supposed to be suitable for use in introductory or advanced undergraduate classes, and are conducted not to produce a seamless “lecture” but rather excerpts that can be incorporated into prerecorded class videos or lectures.
In addition to scholars and practitioners talking about their areas of expertise, some interviews will contain discussions of what it’s like to work in various areas of applied international relations. Some videos include biographical information on how participants wound up in their present positions.
Using the Archive
The archive consists of folders that are entitled with the name of the interviewee and the core topic under discussion. Each folder contains a video and a text file with a rough index to the video. The videos themselves have title cards related to the index, so it is possible to scroll through the video to find sections that might be useful to you.
All videos in the archive are under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. At minimum, your videos or lectures must identify the name of the interviewee. Preferred citation includes the name of the interviewee, the date of the interview, and some reference to the “Teaching World Politics Project” so that other people can find the archive.
We currently only have a small number of samples up, and it will take a while to even process what we already have.
How Can You Help?
As of now, all of our interviewing, recording, and production work is being done by three people – one of whom is a serious introvert – and we could really use help. There are two ways to help:
Editing and indexing videos. Each video should take 1.5-2 hours to complete, depending on your skill level. Videos are currently being processed this way in iMovie or Final Cut Pro X, but any software is fine so long as the video output isn’t downsampled. Contact Dan Nexon if you’re interested. We are happy if people are willing to do only one or two videos – indeed, we’d prefer that to anyone taking on more than they can realistically complete in relatively short order; no one wants to be pestering volunteers.
Recording interviews. We’d love for people to volunteer to interview other scholars or practitioners, and the neat thing is that you can interview pretty much anyone you want. The only restriction on our end is that the interviewer must be someone currently teaching IR at the college or university level, or an advanced PhD in International Relations/International Studies. There is, or will soon be, an access-restricted spreadsheet to track the effort. This will help us a) to avoid pestering those who have already agreed or turned down a request and b) to try to ensure adequate methodological and demographic diversity in the pool of videos.
Instructions for Zoom: when recording, keep your interface set to speaker view (you’ll notice that our first two videos were in gallery view, and that’s… not great).
General instructions for recording:
You and your subject should use headphones, and make sure that all your computer sound is routed through those headphones. Both you and your subject should do their best to remove other sources of noise, such as mobile phones.
If you do get interrupted or the subject wants to start over, make sure that they back up to a point where it will be easy to edit (so at the start of the idea).
There are plenty of resources online that cover best practices, but keep in mind that our interviews are supposed to be informal.
Do not split screen your interview. The interviewee will be edited out of the archived video.
Keep in mind that our videos are supposed to be informal.
Important: as you’re interviewing have a timer going and keep a real-time index of key subjects or anecdotes. This will make it much easier to process the video later.
Volunteering to be interviewed. If you’d like to be interviewed, email Dan and he’ll put you on a list. You should include your name, best email address, position(s), and subject-matter expertise. Note that because 1) we don’t have a lot of labor hours and 2) volunteers are likely to be focused on collecting material for their immediate teaching needs, we cannot guarantee when or if an interview will actually take place. But we do appreciate your willingness to do one and, if this project continues for the next year, we really hope that we can get to you.
But Wait, There’s More
There are a ton of informal efforts by professors to recruit other experts and scholars to speak to their classes, because COVID-19 and remote learning.
There are terrific resources that you can and should use to break the constraints of social capital and find potential speakers. If you’re like me, though, and you’re an introvert, it takes enormous energy to approach even one person you don’t know for this kind of favor.
Thus, over on Facebook I pitched the idea of maintaining a spreadsheet where people could volunteer as speakers. It’s called the “Yes, I would be happy to chat remotely with your class!” list, and if this appeals to you check it out (I’ve entered my name both as an example and also because, yes, indeed, I would be happy to chat remotely with your class!). I’ve put instructions there for how to get your name added.
The other thing that I think would be useful to crowdsource is a list of resources. The Carnegie Endowment is doing great work making video and audio resources available. There are podcasts that might be suitable for specific classes. That kind of thing. If there’s interest, I’m happy to host something that as well.
I really don’t know if any of this will work out. But since I’m doing some of this anyway, I figure “why not?”
This is a guest post by Philipp Schulz, who is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) at the University of Bremen. Philipp’s research focuses on the gender dynamics of armed conflicts, with a particular focus on masculinities and wartime sexual violence. His book ‘Male Survivors of Wartime Sexual Violence – Perspectives from northern Uganda’ is forthcoming with University of California Press.
Academic competitiveness and pettiness is alive and real. From expediting demands of the competitive academic job market, disrespectful peer review comments, to micro-aggressions and open hostilities at conferences – in particular to early career, women and/or people of colour scholars – there seem to be countless examples for an acute absence of kindness and empathy in the academy. Probably most of us, although to varying degrees, have been confronted with the unkind aspects of academic environments. In many ways, of course, these problems are embedded in wider structural problems of racism and sexism within the academy at large.
Fortunately, there seems to be increasing (albeit slow) recognition of the toxic practices of academic work cultures. As an early career researcher, I am particularly excited about some of the kindness that many of my peers are extending and the horizontal generosity that is beginning to spread across conferences, workshops and social media. Yet, I do believe that the (sub-)field of feminist international relations is particularly unique in that way, perhaps not unrelated to some of the disciplinary sanctioning and marginalizing that the field still experiences in the discipline more widely.
In 2016 I took a job at university in the UK. As an American, British academic culture was new to me, especially its ‘audit culture’. The key elements of audit culture are mechanisms for the evaluation and measurement of teaching and research. The vast majority of UK higher education is delivered by public institutions, regulated and funded in large part by the government. The UK government justifies its use of oversight mechanisms on democratic grounds. They argue that since higher education is funded primarily, though not exclusively, by the central government, academic staff should be held accountable to the public through the evaluation of the relative ‘excellence’ of a university’s research and teaching. However, as I will explain, government-mandated reviews are only the tip of the iceberg. The practice of oversight is woven into the day-to-day administration of teaching and research.
The rules of the REF are baroque and shift with each subsequent cycle. Under the current rules, as a scholar on a research and teaching contract your aim should be to produce four, four-star research outputs every five years. This is because, at least for the 2021 cycle, no one researcher can submit more than four items, but universities have to submit at least something from all eligible staff it employs (just determining eligibility requires a flow chart–see p. 36). There is also an “impact case study” element to the REF used to assess the role research plays outside academia. To give you an idea of the scale of the REF audit, here are the stats from 2014:
Sorry, clickbait! But admit, it, after an apology of race science in Quillette or “The Case for Colonialism” in TWQ you probably rage-clicked on the thumbnail to let me have it. Periodic IR Twitter flares over teaching “Stoddard light” (i.e., Huntington) also show that not all scholars are aware of racialized origins of world order, existing color lines in global capitalism, or even “race relations” pedigree of IR as a discipline. This post is about a case for teaching about nationalism because it seems like different versions of racist primordial rhetoric just won’t die.
As a blog post by John Jackson made it clear, race science is a vampire science that comes back every so often [Twilight joke edited]. I see from time to time some type of “IQ difference” and “levels of criminality” arguments coming up among students because these arguments are essentially polished up turds from the 19th century anthroposociology and Social Darwinism that keep stinking up even supposedly an academic debate through mainstreaming of far-right rhetoric around the world. If a “Leader of the Free World” can say that “Mexicans are rapists” and “they bring drugs and crime” on prime-time television while the news dutifully resort to both-sidism and place chyrons with direct quotes, is our last hope education?
I have taught a course on theories of nationalism for several years now and we always start with the primordial stuff: blood, speech, custom, region, and religion. At this point, I invite students to create a ‘fake nation” in groups. This usually yields a very fun and diverse set of nations from island matriarchate with coconut cult to unicorn-blooded mermaid atheists. This exercise, of course, does not reverse or heal all the prejudice that might have collected in the backs of the minds of students (I have another 13 sessions for that) but at least it gives them an opportunity to reflect on the artificial nature of nation-building projects.
Another important session is on the role of collective memory and politics of commemoration. Especially on the undergraduate level where high school memories are not that far off, it’s important to reflect what was chosen to remember and what was chosen to forget in history books, why certain public holidays make the cut, and how national projects begin in the everyday, often unnoticed practices of creating a “culture”. But, as Huntington’s resilience on the syllabi shows, “culture” still serves as an ontological category that elevates constructed differences to political ones. So, after 14 sessions of talking imagined communities, “scientific” racism, and ontological security among others, I rarely get the boiler plate “Western civilization” in the exam answers, but how do I know the vaccination against racism has been successful?
As Paul Musgrave noted, right-wing media tells me that I can turn my students into socialists, but my experience tells me that I can’t even make them do the reading. So, what can we as political scientists do to inoculate against racism and xenophobia? What should we encourage the students to read? Because I don’t want to see the vampire science rise again.
As a new postdoc to the Kinder Insitute, I have the good fortune not to be teaching this semester. In addition to working on my book manuscript—more on that later—I have been spending a good deal of time thinking through my class on U.S. foreign policy. This has been a good experience even at this early stage because it has forced me to think about what students really need to know about foreign policy, and it has provided me the spurring I needed to begin distilling my graduate training into a systematic framework.
Writing a syllabus poses several challenges, not least of which are what the students should learn. Although it would be nice to have some aggregate data, at this time I am unaware of anything like the GRaduate Assignments Data Set (GRADS) on graduate readings in IR. And although it would be nice to have data on what approaches work best, I have a hunch that most of what we do does not actually train students to think about foreign policy in a serious way.
My own survey of syllabi, both from GRADS and my own smaller collection, suggest that the plurality of courses in foreign policy begin with a brief survey of the paradigms, maybe some introductory concepts like the agent-structure problem, research programs, some methods, and then finally about half way through a semester or later, finally get into the meat of specific issues and themes. And sure, maybe its an exaggeration to characterize foreign policy and IR courses this way. But my growing hunch is that a lot of the explanation for teaching foreign policy this way stems from the tension between foreign policy and IR. The former, I think, looks at international politics from the vantage point of the state or politician’s view of the international system; the later looking at states like the old familiar billiard ball. There are strengths to each, and there are great ways of teaching foreign policy without relying on IR approaches as the primary lens through we introduce students to foreign policy.
Can foreign policy be taught without reference to the paradigms of realism, liberalism, and constructivism? Can be taught without weeks of theoretical and conceptual throat clearing? If so, how so? Continue reading
As August accelerates and academics panic as their summer dreams/plans meet the harsh reality that one usually does not get done all that they want to do, it is time to give unsolicited advice to the new folks. For great advice on how to manage one’s mental and emotional well-being, see this thread. I have some more tactical advice about expectations and getting through the first year, as I remember making the same mistake three times on the first day of teaching.
Syllabi and comprehensive exam reading lists are often graduate students’ first major exposure to political science. In the field of IR, they tell students what scholarship matters for the field and – by omission – what doesn’t matter quite as much. What students read as graduate students likely influences some of what they cite later in their academic careers. What then exactly is in these important documents?
Even though ISA provided some much-needed group therapy, in the end we still need to grapple with and teach about #45. I was inspired by some ideas in syllabi 1, 2, and 3, but I also needed some background information and topics that are geared towards a non-American audience. On top of it, I left the theme of one session open for the students to decide on.
So below is roughly what my students are in for at the University of Bremen. Any ideas how to improve it?
There are a lot of really great aspects of professorial teaching. It at the core of education, and thus at the core of universities as institutions of higher education. Professors have the opportunity to watch students grow through discovery and skill building. Professors and students through the practice of teaching build a shared connection of knowledge and inquiry. For many faculty and (hopefully) students, teaching raises new perspectives and forces reconsideration of established ideas. Teaching has economic benefits for students, notwithstanding recent debates. All of this and more is well known, particularly to colleagues outside major research universities, where teaching is sometimes seen as a task to be endured rather than embraced.
Having just seen a TedX talk on the link between happiness and living in the moment, another benefit of teaching occurs to me that I have not see discussed. It turns out that when our minds wander, we report being substantially unhappier than when we remain focused and in the moment. Continue reading
Policy schools prepare students to work in the public policy realm, most often training students for positions in government. But policymaking is an increasingly diverse field, policy issues span the globe and multiple–state and non-state–actors take part in decision-making and policy implementation. How should we teach global policy-making in policy schools?
In a recent article co-authored with Cristina M. Balboa, Policymaking in the Global Context: Training Students to Build Effective Strategic Partnerships with Nongovernmental Organizations [ungated access here], we use a case study of the on-going global response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and descriptive data from an analysis of MPA/MPP programs to demonstrate the need for teaching “global” policymaking.  Continue reading
So, I got some bad teaching evaluations from last semester (bad by my standards at least. Hell, by anybody’s standards). It’s kind of thrown me for a loop because I pride myself on being a good scholar, a good teacher, and a good husband/father. But, sometimes it may not be possible to pull off all three of these things well simultaneously, especially if you’ve got an ambitious research agenda, equally challenging and risky courses, and a toddler at home. That wasn’t my immediate reaction when I read the students comments, but I’ve kind of gravitated to that conclusion, if only to stave off admissions of being a lousy professor or thinking ill of my students.
I’ve written before about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s powerful essay and the problematic label of “having it all.” Coming back to the idea here doesn’t make it any easier to think about what to do about it.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) about domestic politics helps us understand variation in the likelihood of international conflict. I focused particularly on whether the spread of democracy explains Europe’s transformation from one of the most violent parts of the world to one of the most peaceful and how the the fear of coups and rebellion in Sub-Saharan Africa helps explain why there have been so few interstate wars there.
I closed out the portion focusing on the democratic peace by discussing how territorial disagreements both promote war and inhibit democracy, thereby creating a spurious correlation between joint democracy and peace (see this recent post of mine).
To help the students see how the nature of the threat a state faces might be related to the constraints placed on the government, which is a key part of that argument, I asked them to play the part of an opposition party that was being asked to allow the government to delay elections in each of two related scenarios.
The correct answer, as a relatively slim majority (?!) of them guessed, was the second scenario. I had expected this to be more straightforward. Among those who offered an explanation for their answer (which many did, though none was required), the correct answer was a clear favorite, and the reasoning was generally well in line with my expectations. But for some reason, a substantial minority still went with the first scenario, for reasons that are not clear to me. Perhaps they were just guessing at random?
At any rate, my hope was that by getting them to more or less reveal through their own behavior a core part of an argument that implies that the correlation between joint democracy and peace is spurious, I might have convinced some of them that there’s something to the alternative argument. I don’t how many of them connected those dots, and I’m fairly sure that no matter how many times I talk about correlation not necessarily implying causation, a good chunk of them will continue to draw invalid inferences when the conclusions fit their priors, but I think some of them got something out of this activity.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on information problems as an explanation for war—which I’d say is the most useful explanation we’ve got. The broad contours of the argument are pretty straightforward, but the full implications are not. (That’s something of an understatement. As I’ve discussed a few times before, a lot of very smart people have made incorrect statements about what this argument implies. In fact, while I’ll gladly admit we’ve hit the point of diminishing marginal returns, I still think there’s a lot we’ve yet to learn from this way of thinking.)
This activity was designed to illustrate both the general point that war can occur as a result of states taking (optimal) gambles and also to demonstrate two less intuitive implications of the argument: states who expect to do poorly in war are not necessarily any less likely to risk war; and states who are fairly sure their fait accompli will provoke military resistance may still execute them, even if said resistance would cause them ex post regret.
The scenario described by the two parts of the activity is identical to that depicted by the game-theoretic model discussed in the lecture. But whereas the lecture walks through a general solution to the model, identifying optimal strategies under all possible conditions, and thus involves a fair amount of algebra, the activity assigns concrete numbers to everything and so simplifies things greatly. In fact, while I allowed the students to consult their notes and/or the slides during the activity, as a handful did, the optimal strategies here are sufficiently straightforward that most students correctly identified them without doing so (and probably, in many cases, without having listened to the lecture before class.)
Of course, it helps that this time around, I didn’t throw things wide open the way I did with a previous activity. The only two options that make any sense (the largest land grab the blue type would be willing to live with, which would provoke a war if D happens to be red but bring a better payoff if they’re blue; and the largest land grab that the red type would tolerate, which ensures peace but not necessarily on the best possible terms) are identified for them. All they have to do is figure out which makes more sense.
As many correctly determined, it makes sense to gamble here. That’s not terribly interesting, in and of itself. But what one might overlook is that they just proved to themselves, through their own behavior, that it can make sense to risk war even if you know that, should the war that you genuinely hope to avoid occur, the outcome would be pretty terrible. In this case, grabbing 50% of the territory meant accepting a 30% chance of provoking a war that would leave you feeling as though you’d gained nothing at all (acquiring 10% of the territory but incurring costs that completely offset that gain). And yet most of them went for it. As they should have.
The second part is nearly identical to the first. However, here, any potential war would go pretty well for the challenger, even against the red type. The costs of war have even come down a bit. So it’s not surprising that even more of them decided to gamble here, taking 90% of the territory. Again, that’s not what I what I was trying to show. What I wanted them to focus on was that the vast majority of them went for the larger land grab despite the fact that they knew (or, at least, should have known) there was a 65% chance that they wouldn’t get away with it. As I hope was clear to at least some of them, taking 60% of the territory, which they’d have been sure to get away with, would certainly leave them better off than fighting a war against the red type would, since that would leave them feeling as though they’d acquired 50%. So even though the war they risked provoking wouldn’t prove disastrous, its occurrence would still entail ex post regret. It would be a war no one wanted. As most wars are.
As ever, I’m not sure everyone got what I was trying to convey. But I think most of them did. Hopefully, most of them will now be less inclined to confidently assert (the way so many do) that it makes no sense to involve yourself in a war you don’t expect to win, or to see a war that no one really wanted and conclude that some or all of the personalities involved must have been deficient in some way. As I discussed in the lecture, it’s entirely possible that those factors were at work in many historical cases. But we don’t know that. We can’t know that, at least not with the sort of confidence many exhibit. Because despite what many seem to believe, such outcomes can arise as the result of optimal decision-making.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on commitment problems. The lecture focused in particular on how the anticipation of future shifts in power can create incentives for preventive war. After walking them through a formal model fleshing out the argument, I then discussed the role of preventive motives in the US Civil War and showed them that interstate wars have occurred more often historically when there was reason to believe that war in the current year would have a significant impact on the distribution of military capabilities in the subsequent year. This activity applies that same argument to a slightly different setting: the problem of rebel demobilization, which Walter has called “the critical barrier to civil war settlement.”
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) introducing the second big puzzle of the course: why states sometimes burn what they want in order to get more of it—that is, why wars occur despite the inefficiency their costly nature implies.
Over the course of the next few lectures, I’ll be taking them through the main arguments of Fearon 1995 (see also this blog post) step by step. But before we turn to the explanations for war, we first need to understand the inefficiency argument so as to fully appreciate why common explanations fail.
Today’s activity was simpler than many of the previous ones, consisting of a single decision that should have been pretty straightforward for those who actually understood the lecture (of which, it appears, there were only so many).
The correct answer is 75%, as a handful (but, sadly, only a handful) of students determined. The reason is that D has no incentive to start a war unless doing so leaves them feeling as though they held onto more territory than if they allowed C to get away with their fait accompli, and since D will feel as though they have held onto a mere 25% of the territory if they resist (despite retaining control of 40%), C can safely take 75% without provoking a war. Should C take less than this amount, C will avoid a war, but will fail to achieve the best outcome possible. To take less than 75% of the territory in this case would be the equivalent of insisting on paying more than amount due at the grocery store. Sure, you can. I think. I mean, I’m certainly not aware of any law against that. But why would you? (Of course, there’s a very important moral difference between countries taking less land than they could have gotten away with and individual consumers overpaying at the grocery store, but they weren’t asked what % of territory C could morally justify taking, nor do I think they understood it as such. If they had, I’d have expected a lot more answers of “0%” or “none” and a lot fewer of “100%” or “everything.”) On the other hand, taking more than 75% provokes a war, which leaves C feeling as they’ve only acquired 50% of the territory. So that can’t be optimal.
The most common answer was 100%. Every number on the slide made a pretty strong showing, particularly 60% and 50%, leaving me with the impression that a good number of students were guessing randomly. Some did, however, offer explanations for their answers that indicated they were thinking along the right lines but just didn’t quite connect all the dots. At any rate, after I explained the optimal strategy, they seemed to get it right away, which was encouraging.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on how international institutions promote cooperation.
In that lecture, I presented the epiphenomenal critique, which I think establishes an important baseline, then went on to discuss specific mechanisms by which institutions might solve coordination problems, collaboration problems, and problems of trust/fear of exploitation (the three primary explanations I offered for why states sometimes leave money lying on the ground). The first half of the activity sought to illustrate the epiphenomenal critique more clearly, while the second tests their understanding of the theoretical model I used to demonstrate the even if institutions merely serve as screening mechanisms, they may still facilitate cooperation that would not otherwise occur (as I’ve discussed here before).
The decisions they faced in the first part were pretty simple.
My expectation, which proved accurate, was that most of those who chose to cooperate would sign the treaty while most of those who did not would not. A significant number of non-cooperators signed the treaty, but fewer than did not, and only one cooperator chose not to sign the treaty. Thus, their behavior produced a fairly strong, though not perfect, correlation between cooperative behavior support for an international treaty that, by design, absolutely did not matter at all.
This didn’t seem to impress them much. I’m not sure if that’s because the epiphenomenal critique is so intuitive that they already understood it clearly or if this exercise failed to clarify things or what. I guess I’ll find out how well they understand this point after they submit their answers to the midterm.
The second half was more challenging.
Here, the students face the same set of decisions as player 1 in the Model of Reassurance I discussed in the lecture they were to have listened to before class. In that model, there is an equilibrium where the blue type of player 1 (which is the type they’ve been assigned here) proposes an agreement, then cooperates with 2 if and only if 2 accepts the agreement, while 2 accepts the agreement and then cooperates if blue, but rejects the agreement and does not cooperate if red. Two important conditions for that equilibrium are: the red type finds the cost of the agreement too high for it to be worth mimicking the behavior of the blue type in hopes of tricking player 1 into trusting them; yet the blue type finds that cost acceptable. Note that these conditions are met here. So a student who is really on top of the material would notice that if they propose agreements to all five countries then cooperate only with those that accept would have no reason to fear exploitation and could expect to earn more points (30 if just one of the five other countries turned out to be blue, which was precisely what happened when I determined their types randomly) than a student who adopted any other strategy.
Unfortunately, very few students selected the optimal strategy.
What most did, strangely enough, was to propose no agreements and cooperate with no one. Now, I understand the latter part. If you failed to understand how institutions can eliminate trust problems, particularly under conditions that just so happen to be met here, then it would make sense to play it safe. In fact, I set things up to ensure that cooperation would not be appealing if the trust problem couldn’t be solved. But what I don’t quite get is why so few of the non-cooperative students proposed agreements. I guess they were afraid that the other side would accept, thereby costing them five points, but weren’t willing to trust that anyone who accepted the agreement would cooperate. Or, more likely, they didn’t understand that they could condition their answer to the second part on whether the other side accepted their agreement. And that’s undoubtedly because I made them submit their answers before I assigned types to the five countries (which was key to determining whether they’d accept agreements, and which I wanted them to see me do so they didn’t think the outcome was rigged), but I instructed them to tell me separately what they would do in response to acceptance as well as what they would do in response to rejection. Sadly, virtually no one did so. I thought I was clear about that, but obviously I wasn’t clear enough. Next time, I’ll have to really drive home the fact that they not only can but should tell me what they would after each possible response by the other side to their proposal.
So, I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of them again on Monday, when they get their usual chance to redo the activity.
On the upside, when I explained why the optimal strategy was what it was, most of them seemed to understand. I would have liked to see some of them figure out on their own, as that would indicate that they had a good grasp of the key point of the lecture the activity was paired with, but at least the activity served its purpose.