Teaching About Terrorism Through Simulations

Teaching About Terrorism Through Simulations

Mat Hardy (Deakin University, Australia) and Sally Totman (Deakin University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0004-0.ch009

Abstract

Creating positive learning outcomes regarding terrorism can be challenging. The nature of the topic offers several obstacles to learner understanding, not least of which is how to enable students to transcend their own cultural perspectives and develop deeper and more objective insights regarding the groups and causes that foster terrorism. Following an exploration of the growth in terrorism as an academic subject and the challenges posed to teaching in this area, this chapter presents a possible solution by describing an online role play exercise that has proven learning results over more than 25 years of usage. This tool, grounded in an experiential learning approach, can assist in easing some of the stresses faced by teachers and institutions, while also offering deeper and more insightful discoveries for participants.
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Introduction

The burgeoning growth of radical groups and ideologies around the world has seen a related expansion of terrorism as a 'subject' to be delivered in an educational context. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror spurred rapid development in higher education courses that either focus wholly on terrorism or include component modules on the topic. Today the need for students and teachers to grasp this phenomenon has not abated and educational providers are increasingly required to offer learning aimed at preparing graduates for careers in security and counter-terrorism.

Despite all this activity and demand, creating effective learning outcomes regarding terrorism can be challenging (Pinar Alakoc, 2018). The nature of the topic offers several obstacles to learner understanding, not least of which is how to enable students to transcend their own cultural perspectives and develop deeper and more objective insights regarding the groups and causes that foster terrorism. Achieving such comprehension by climbing the dry mountain of scholarly literature on terrorism is not likely, yet neither can traditional 'hands-on' experiences such as field trips be offered. At the same time, the emotive aspects of terrorism can be challenging for teachers to deal with, particularly in a political and legal environment that reacts strongly and punitively to perceived 'sympathy' for terrorists.

How then can educators best impart a multifaceted understanding of terrorism as a form of political violence? Following an exploration of the growth in terrorism as an academic subject and the challenges posed to teaching in this area, this chapter presents a possible solution by describing an online role play exercise that has learning results proven over more than 25 years of usage. This tool, grounded in an experiential learning approach, can assist in easing some of the stresses faced by teachers and institutions, while also offering deeper and more insightful discoveries for participants.

The growth in scholarly publication on terrorism after 9/11 is staggering. An audit of book titles available via Amazon carried out by Silke (2009) noted that prior to the attacks 1,310 non-fiction works had been published containing the world 'terrorism' in their title. But within the subsequent seven years, another 2,281 titles had been added. Dolnik (2015) reports that a new book on terrorism is released roughly every six hours! Similar studies on journal outputs covering terrorism offer comparable results: within four or five years after 9/11, the volume of scholarly articles produced on terrorism had exceeded the entire number produced in all the decades prior. Whole new journals devoted to terrorism studies were created and existing journals in the topic area increased their publishing frequency and article counts. To illustrate the physical extent of this slew of material, Dexter and Guittet (2014) describe their compilation of a 'scroll' by connecting printed pages of all the references they could find to books and articles on terrorism. The resulting list rolls out to over 120 metres.

This increase in words is paralleled by an increase in study options for those interested in terrorism, either intellectually or in terms of career progression. Degree courses offering majors in terrorism, counter-terrorism and related areas of political violence and security have blossomed, often on the back of post-9/11 funding avenues that saw universities around the world establish new research institutes, think tanks or outreach programs (Jackson, 2012). Existing degrees in areas such as International Relations, Political Science, Criminology and Sociology began to include modules and options that examined terrorism and/or political violence generally or in specific regions. For example, according to its archived handbooks, in 2002 Australia's Monash University offered only a single undergraduate module that dealt with security (in this case arms control).1 They also offered just one unit dealing with the Middle East and none at all that mentioned terrorism in the title. By 2007, however, there were nine undergraduate units that had the words 'terrorism' or 'violence' in their titles, including ones that allowed for writing extended research projects on terrorism and security. There were also now three units specifically on the Middle East and another on 'Political Islam'. The same university had also opened a Global Terrorism Research Centre in 2006, which had emerged from a group called the Global Terrorism Research Unit, which was quickly put together in 2002. Such a growth in course offerings and dedicated research centres would be a common narrative around the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Terrorism: A form of politically or ideologically motivated violence intended to invoke fear and change among a wider population via indiscriminate attacks or threats against civilians.

Middle East: A geographical and political term used to define an area of the world incorporating parts of West Asia and North Africa. This is approximate to the Arab-speaking states, plus Israel, Turkey and Iran.

Role Play: Acting the part of another person or entity or a framework for doing so. In an educational context this includes adopting the behaviors and priorities of a real-world person or group and interacting with other players who will have their own competing agendas.

Experiential Learning: Learning through experience and reflection upon those experiences. The process involves the student progressing through their own learning journey and can incorporate experience gained in non-classroom settings too.

Reflective Learning: Taking learned experiences and transforming those into new knowledge or perspectives which can then be re-applied or adapted to inform future experience. Part of the Experiential Learning cycle.

Simulation: A role-playing framework that seeks to imitate genuine scenarios or parameters in order for participants to undertake an experiential learning process through their interactions.

Political Science: A discipline within the Social Sciences that analyses political behavior, governance, and philosophies of leadership and communal activity. Comprised of numerous sub-fields.

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