Course: POL240
Instructor: Rebecca Perlman
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

International Relations is a survey course about the theories and applications of international relations. The goal of the course is to give students a foundation of the theories and allow them to apply it to broader questions and current events. The lectures flow in a logical progression, beginning with the basic theories of international relations as an explanation of why wars occur. After the midterm, the curriculum applies it these theories to other related areas such as the environment, trade, and foreign aid. The sequencing of the course was very logical and the lectures are essential to understanding the content. The readings are the main content of precept and make up a large part of the exam content. The course is not easy, but it is effective in teaching the material to students who engage with it.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lecture: Professor Perlman has high expectations of everyone attending lecture, as she does not enforce an attendance policy but bases exam questions off of lecture material. The lectures follow a logical sequence and give appropriate examples for each point or theory presented.

Assigned readings: Professor Perlman cut the reading quantity in half from to the previous professor’s syllabus, so she expects that all of them are read closely. They make up a large part of the midterm and final exams. From each reading, it was important to know the author’s name, the experimental method (if applicable), and the thesis and main takeaway.

Precept: The purpose of precepts is to make sure the reading material was understood. Each week, one student was assigned to prepare a quick reading summary. There was time at the beginning of each class for questions about lecture material, then the class reviewed each reading. Precepts were often rushed due to students’ summaries taking too much time and having covered too much lecture material to fit all questions into one precept session. However, the assigned readings summaries meant that by the time the exam came around, there was at least one student in the precept who was an expert in each reading, which made collaborative studying for the exams very useful.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are two small paper assignments and a midterm and final exam. The instructions for the first paper were very vague and resulted in a lot of students unhappy with their grades, so the professor and preceptors made the guidelines more clear for the second paper.

The exam questions drew upon knowledge that was learned from lectures and from the readings. The midterm exam contained twelve short answer questions, of which students answered ten. The final exam contained.a long essay, some short answer questions, and two mid-length essays. The final exam was cumulative, although only the long essay covered material from the first half the semester, and Professor Perlman emphasized that it would not ask about anything that had not been covered on the midterm.

This class requires excellent memorization skills, as memorizing the main points from the readings is essential to succeeding on the exams. The best way to prepare for the final exam was reviewing all the lecture material and relating the readings to the appropriate lectures. I experienced great success by writing out all the course material on a blackboard until I was able to regurgitate a survey of the course material to a friend.

The papers are an opportunity to reflect on the week’s class material in a low-pressure way, as both papers combined are only worth 15% of the course grade. For the first paper, students were required to choose a week for which to write about its topic and apply the theories from the readings to a present-day example. The second paper had a more specific prompt but again required the use of the readings as sources. The guidelines were vague for the first paper, but Professor Perlman was more clear about the paper requirements for the second paper, so it is reasonable to assume she will further refine the guidelines for future semesters.

External Resources

The main external resources for this class are the preceptors. They are very knowledgeable about the course material and eager to help in whatever way they can. I improved my second paper from my first paper because my preceptor reviewed my outline and helped me refine my argument. She really wanted her students to succeed and was flexible with organizing meeting times outside of class time.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This course is a thorough survey course that teaches its students about the theories of international relations and applies them to past and present real-world situations. Although there are not many pages of reading, each page is essential to the content, exams, and understanding of the course. The precepts are not as engaging as the lectures, but they reinforce students’ understanding of the readings, which is helpful in the long run. Professor Perlman’s lectures are very clear and to the point. This course is not easy, but students who engage in it will learn important material.

International Relations

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