Understanding Multiple Perspectives: The Contribution of a Short-Essay Assignment to Teaching about the Arab–Israeli Conflict
by Alon Yakter, University of Michigan, and Mark Tessler, University of Michigan
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. This article offers both quantitative and qualitative evidence that a short essay asking students to defend a key action taken by one of the actors makes them 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 to make more informed and reasoned judgments. Importantly, such an assignment is easy to create, implement, and modify across various class types, sizes, and constraints.