Brainstorming on ways to solve current Arab-Israeli conflicts was all in a day’s work for students in an accelerated freshman global studies class recently. The students discussed problem-solving methods as part of the course’s focus on conflict resolution in the Middle East at CAVOC on Friday, Feb. 8. In the process, they gained valuable skills that will serve them well in life.
Doug Nelson, who teaches the course with Jacob Stingl, admits he was taken aback by the students’ ability to collaborate on such a tough topic. “We chose to focus on a difficult issue, but take it even farther in terms of how conflicts present themselves and how we can resolve issues in our own lives,” said Nelson, who has a history of allowing students in all of his classes the opportunity to debate one another on a variety of topics as a way for them to collaborate and see multiple viewpoints. Watching his freshman global studies students participate actively in these discussions inspired the idea of creating mock resolution panels, during which students could learn valuable teamwork and problem-solving skills.
In CAVOC’s wooded setting last week, students spent the morning divided into groups, with each representing a different political group within the region. They debated one another about the political conflicts in modern-day Israel. The debates concluded with each group at an impasse, as each represented a separate set of beliefs.
Groups spent the latter portion of the day creating solutions to the disagreements presented earlier in each debate. Students were given a set of tasks to consider when creating their solutions, including the ability to define problems, separate needs from wants, and to focus on win-win situations that were beneficial to each group. With these tasks in mind, each group developed a collective solution for the party they represented.
“The transformation the students made throughout the day in terms of conflict resolution is something they’ll be able to walk away with and use for the rest of their lives,” said Nelson. “As an instructor, as well as a father of two young children, it feels good to know that what we’re teaching will allow these students to overcome obstacles in their own lives.”
He was also impressed with the creativity generated toward the solutions developed. “We had all types of solutions from holding peace concerts to trading representative democracies based on ancient Roman governmental rule. I was blown away at how the kids worked together and the ideas they came up with.”
Based on the positive outcome of this activity, Nelson and Stingl are anxious to carry the idea of conflict resolution throughout the rest of the term with upcoming units including immigration, trade policies and global poverty. Both teachers are hopeful that their students will be able to utilize the lessons learned in this activity in dealing with academic and personal conflicts throughout their lives.
“Through this case study, the overall message we wanted to send was that fighting is easy and that not only is it important to recognize the conflicts around us, but to know how to effectively solve them,” Nelson said. “I think our goal was successfully met.”
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