I have never taught an International Affairs class. However, I have taught a Media class, where we looked at political topics in the UK and the US like newspaper phone-tapping and Obama's presidential eligibility. In my Conversation class I have also done units on the 9-11 Attacks.

In the class, it would not be my intention to try to teach International Relations theory, and I would certainly not make it a platform to present my views on world affairs. I would create teaching units on interesting world personalities and events in the past 20-30 years, and through contact with the language used in the listening material and discussion, expect the students to gain some understanding of the vocabulary and the ideas that are important for the understanding of international relations.

With the listening material, coming from VOA, BBC, CNN and Youtube broadcasts, I would create dictation exercises, as I do for all my Conversation and Business English classes, and expect the students to do these as Internet homework, filling in the blanks, before or after class,

In class, I would follow a Cooperative Learning approach. Specifically, we would do Jigsaw activities, where each member of a 3- or 4-member group is presented with different information and the group has to discuss the information, asking each other questions to get the "big picture," and also to ensure that everyone else also understands. (In the 4 exams, after discussing their information, students have to answer questions individually about the story, but their grade is a group grade.)

For example, a story linking Beverly Eckert, a 9-11 advocate and Mohammed Atta, a 9-11 hijacker,

  • A: You were working at the top of the World Trade Center when Mohamed flew his plane into it. You called your wife on your cell phone as the building collapsed and told her you loved her.
  • B: You were the pilot of the aircraft on which Beverly died. The wings stopped lifting the aircraft as it neared the ground, but instead of pointing the plane down further to gain speed, you tried to point the plane up.
  • C: After your husband, Sean died, you devoted your life to promoting the goals of the families of the people who died in the 9-11 attacks. You wanted the U.S. government to do more. But you died in the plane piloted by Marvin.
  • D: You attacked the World Trade Center, because you hated the U.S. You didn't know Beverly and her husband, but you thought their deaths were justified. Anyway, you and all of the others are dead now.

As debriefing of this information gap activity, we draw a diagram on the board, identifying Personalities, Relationships, Feelings and the Story.

Then the groups are asked to write WH-questions, YN-questions and tag questions about the 911 Attacks on the board.

My NUU students (and Taiwanese students in general?) are not active participants in class. They do not question me, or express their opinions. But I hope that students in the World Affairs class would be more willing to interact with me, either as a whole class, or in groups, to ask me questions about my views and to present their views. If they were prepared to do that, I would then provide a soundfile and information about 9-11 Truthers (conspiracy theorists) and ask them to talk about it in the last part of this 9-11 unit in class.

Classwork (participation and the number of questions written on the board) would be a group grade worth 20 percent of the grade. Membership of groups would be reshuffled every 4 weeks.

After this class, for homework, students write questions and answers about the story using an Internet question-answering application I have developed. Ungrammatical questions are not recognized, so this is also a grammar exercise. This (with the dictation exercises in alternate weeks) would be 40 percent of the grade.

Every 4 weeks, I would do an exam in 2 parts. In the first part, students would do similar Jigsaw exercises to the ones they had already done in previous weeks, but would also answer 10 questions about the story. This exam would be conducted by a student group. In the other part, that I conduct, students are paired and ask each other questions about the stories of the previous 4 weeks, and I award points on the basis of the grammaticality of the questions and the correctness of the answers. One of the pair is the winner getting 3 points and the other is the loser, getting 2. These 4 exams would be also 40 percent of the grade.

I already have material for four events or topics prepared which I am ready to use in class.

  • Phone-tapping by newspapers of celebrities in the UK.
  • 9-11 activist Beverly Eckert
  • Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla
  • Obama's presidential eligibility

I might do these in the first 4 weeks and make them the basis for the first exam.

These are only US and UK stories. I think it is appropriate to have topics with a wider geographical distribution including Africa and Asia, and to have stories on international issues like globalization, ecological sustainability, terrorism, trade and economic development, war and human rights, in Weeks 5-18. But I would also want to get student input on which issues they were most interested in, while at the same time not limiting the topics to only those they express an interest in.

Weekly schedule

  • Week 1: Phone tapping by Rupert Murdoch's "News of the World"
  • Week 2: 9-11 Activist Beverly Eckert
  • Week 3: Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla
  • Week 4: Obama's presidential eligibility
  • Week 5: Exam 1
    • Part 1: Jigsaw plus Quiz on Weeks 1-4 work
    • Part 2: Pair Question/Answer competition
    • Homework: None
  • Week 6: Nelson Mandela's 1990 release
  • Week 7: Hong Kong's return to mainland China
  • Week 10: International organizations
  • Week 11: Globalization
  • Week 12: Ecological sustainability
  • Week 13: Terrorism
  • Week 14: Exam 3
    • Part 1: Jigsaw plus Quiz on Weeks 9-13 work
    • Part 2: Pair Question/Answer competition
    • Homework: None
  • Week 15: Trade and economic development
  • Week 16: War
  • Week 17: Human rights
  • Week 18: Exam 4
    • Part 1: Jigsaw plus Quiz on Weeks 13-17 work
    • Part 2: Pair Question/Answer competition
    • Homework: None