PS: Political Science & Politics

The Teacher

Teaching the Middle East: Pedagogy in a Charged Classroom

Shanna A. Kirschner

Allegheny College


Students in courses about the Middle East want to learn, and they crave discussion. Yet they enter the classroom with a set of beliefs about the region that interact with their fears of offending or contradicting their peers. Together, these can produce a classroom dynamic that ultimately stymies student learning. In this article, several strategies are described to ameliorate this concern. These range from short lessons that directly confront student biases about the Middle East, to close analysis of journal articles and empirical evidence, to structured debates and simulations, to specific classroom management techniques. Together, these strategies can promote engaged, lively debate; generate student self-awareness of their presuppositions; and enhance learning.

Shanna A. Kirschner is an assistant professor in the department of political science at Allegheny College. She can be reached at