Instructor's Guide to Teaching with CASCON

bookCover_sm.gif (11920 bytes)CASCON supplies a ready-made "lab" project of proven value for undergraduate students in international relations, foreign policy, conflict, or history. CASCON (Computer-Aided System for Analyzing Conflict) is a prize-winning computerized conflict analysis system containing 85 mini-histories, each coded for hundreds of "factors" by experts.

CASCON, in combination with the text Managing International Conflict, provides a self-contained hands-on segment to reinforce class work. A good time to introduce it is half-way through a semester, when a course may need livening up. CASCON has also proven valuable as a research and learning tool at the graduate level.

Session Topic Assignments
1 & 2 Understanding conflict: background on the history of  conflict Managing International Conflict Chapters 1,2,3
3 & 4 Managing conflict: strategy and policy for contemporary conflict Managing International Conflict Chapters 4, 5, 6
5 Conflict theory and methodology Managing International Conflict Chapters 7, 8, 9
6 - 10 Student research project using CASCON Managing International Conflict Chapter 10
11 Class reports  

Student Research Project

Each student (or in a large class, pairs of students) selects a specific conflict situation to research. It may be a interstate or civil war situation that is currently building toward a crisis, and that is covered in newspapers and news magazine. For example, a threatening situation between parts of the former Soviet Union in the Caucasus or the Caspian region, or East Timor’s struggle for independence. It might be a relatively recent "dispute", "conflict", or "hostilities" situation (students should learn the definitions used in CASCON), using library information. For example, the US-UN Coalition versus Iraq in 1990; civil and humanitarian strife in Haiti, Bosnia, or Somalia; the Scottish nationalist drive for independence from Great Britain; or the Corsican movement for independence from France. For the history-minded, a more distant conflict might be researched from books. For example: the American revolution, or Sparta versus Athens. Even, for a certain kind of student, an imaginary conflict that has not yet appeared on the horizon.

From Day 1 students should familiarize themselves with CASCON on the computer. Chapter 10 of Managing International Conflict provides a comprehensive User’s Guide to CASCON.  The system itself provides Help menu screens.  In addition, the CASCON web site contains supplementary material and references to assist the student in learning CASCON and using CASCON for conflict analysis.

STUDENT REPORTS should be formatted as an abbreviated version of CASCON’s database cases, using CASCON's special definitions. The instructor should pick as a model one of the CASCON case precis from the database or the web site.

Task 1: Students first identify the essential facts of their "new case": case name and dates, region, type, issue in dispute, "Phases", "Sides", other parties to the case (great powers, etc.). Based on their research, they write a brief "precis"of what happened in what Phase(s) that helped "push" the case toward or away from the next "threshold" of conflict. They then enter their case on-line into CASCON using the Case Detail and the Factors windows.

Task 2: The student runs CASCON’s "Compare" function, matching "their" case with database cases to find those that appear most "similar" on the basis of the most significant factors in common in a given phase. Students are encouraged to draw conclusions about the likelihood of escalation. Optionally students might recommend policy choices for conflict-minimizing measures implied in the comparison results.

Cascon Home  Copyright 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton