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Enhancing Student Understanding of the Arab-Israeli Conflict Using a Short Essay

Fri, September 1, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hilton Union Square, Franciscan C


Teaching about political conflict requires an understanding of the multiple perspectives and motivations of the parties to the conflict. This is especially true when teaching students who may have strong predispositions, such as in classes on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Various active learning techniques address this problem, but often at a cost of long preparation, substantial class time, and class size limitations. In this paper, we offer both quantitative and qualitative evidence that a short essay that asks students to defend a key action taken by one of the actors makes the students more understanding and less accusatory of that side, even as it does not change their overall attitude toward the conflict. Adding a small group discussion and a written reflection further helps students make more informed and reasoned judgments. Importantly, such an assignment is easy to create and implement across various class types, sizes, and constraints.