Teaching Theory and Space: Human Territoriality in Political Science

Teaching Theory and Space: Human Territoriality in Political Science

By Halit Mustafa E. Tagma, Northern Arizona University

Learning theories in political science can be difficult for students. This article describes a technique that helps students to understand how a theory about human characteristics may impact behavior. I use a mini-simulation in which two volunteers are asked to enact a gimmick in front of the classroom, demonstrating the theory of human territoriality (Asal et al. 2018). As the volunteers engage in small talk, I point out that they engage with one another at a certain distance and angle that reflects social space. As the exercise progresses, students easily relate to the theory of human territoriality, which is defined as the symbolic and physical connection to a space considered as their own. This mini-simulation achieves the following learning objectives: understanding (1) that theories are relevant and help to explain human behavior; (2) the workings of the individual level of analysis; and (3) that theories are not universal and have limits to their application across culture, time, and space. This teaching technique does not require preparation time or resources, and students easily comprehend the expected learning outcomes. Having received overwhelmingly positive feedback in evaluations, I offer this as a viable technique for teaching theory in general because it helps students to comprehend what a theory is supposed to do—that is, to understand, explain, and sometimes predict behavior.

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