In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Teaching International Relations

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Anthologies and Edited Volumes on International Relations Theory
  • Methods, Research Design, and Writing in International Relations
  • Professional Online Resources
  • Simulations and Games
  • Teaching Ethics in International Relations
  • Active Learning Approaches
  • The Case Study Method
  • Using Film and Television to Teach IR
  • Service Learning and Experiential Education in International Relations Courses

International Relations Teaching International Relations
Wesley B. Renfro
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 January 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0149


While international relations originated after World War II as an academic field, the study of how to teach international relations is much newer. The pioneering work of a few early scholars notwithstanding, the literature on pedagogy and international relations dates from the late 20th century or early 21st century. Despite being of recent vintage, pedagogy literature has evolved rapidly, and the state of the literature is now richly varied. Some works offer best practices and tips in a more personal narrative form. Other contributions make scientific claims about teaching and learning. Some scholarship is broad and general, e.g., best practices in survey courses, while others are more focused, e.g., how to use specific films to teach about war. Thus, the works and citations listed here are enormously varied. Because this article is on how scholars teach international relations, this guide includes the extant literature that appears in books, edited volumes, peer-reviewed journals, and journals and professional websites. It also includes some of the most useful and interesting textbooks on international relations, international security, international political economy, and international law and organization. The article also includes discussion of specific, and enduring, themes in teaching international relations, including: the role of theory, teaching research design and writing, simulations and games, ethics, active learning, the case study method, using film and television to teach IR, and service learning and experiential education approaches. Although the pedagogy literature has rapidly advanced in recent years, lacunas and gaps remain. For example, the field is almost solely focused on the education of undergraduate students; there is comparatively little published work on how best to education post-graduate students. This article reflects this lacuna because there are few works that discuss anything other than undergraduate education. Somewhat similarly, some topics, e.g., conflict, receive much more attention than others, e.g., development. While the pedagogy literature is young it is already too voluminous to consider in its entirely in this article. Rather, this piece highlights some of the key topics, debates, themes, and piece of literature in the field.

General Overviews

Most of the works on teaching international relations are narrowly constructed. There are, however, a few very useful general overviews. Holsti 2000 engages in a concise and informative discussion of the role of student learning and assessment in the international relations classroom. Lantis, et al. 2000 is one of the few volumes specifically focused on international relations pedagogy. The volume is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to become familiar with the subject. Covering the case method, simulations and games, and technology, this book provides a thorough treatment of best practices in international relations pedagogy. More recently, Gorley-Heenan and Lightfoot 2012 reviews many of the most critical topics, including active learning, teaching to small groups, and integrating technology into the classroom. The work also discusses IR-specific issues like gender and global politics and teaching terrorism.

  • Gorley-Heenan, Cathy, and Simon Lightfoot, eds. Teaching Politics and International Relations. Houndmills, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137003560

    This is an up-to-date volume that covers many aspects of pedagogy and international relations. The text has a UK focus, but most of its contributions easily travel to any setting. The book makes a useful contribution because it fills lacunas in the literature, e.g., small groups, research literacy.

  • Holsti, Ole R. “Reflections on Teaching and Active Learning.” In The New International Studies Classroom: Active Teaching, Active Learning. Edited by Jeffrey S. Lantis, Lynn M. Kuzma, and John Boehrer, 257–269. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

    This narrative imparts thoughts from a leading scholar on the fundamentals of teaching international relations. It offers brief but useful commentary on teaching, case studies, and assessment.

  • Lantis, Jeffrey S., Lynn M. Kuzma, and John Boehrer, eds. The New International Studies Classroom: Active Teaching, Active Learning. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

    Authoritative. This is the most comprehensive guide to teaching international relations. The chapters cover all the important topics and debates in the literature from teaching theory to specific methods like incorporating film into courses.

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