Best Practices from Conflict Zone, Comfort Zone: Ethics, Pedagogy, and Effecting Change in Field-Based Courses


  • Agnieszka Paczynska George Mason University
  • Susan Hirsch George Mason University



This poster session will present insights and best practices that emerge from our new book Conflict Zone, Comfort Zone: Ethics, Pedagogy, and Effecting Change in Field-Based Courses, which showcases new approaches to field-based learning in the most difficult of places: conflict zones in the United States and abroad. Increasingly, post-secondary education incorporates experiential learning options, such as service learning, study-abroad, and other field-based courses. Whether in domestic or international contexts, such courses engage students more directly in comparison to classroom-based learning, as they offer the opportunity to apply theory to practice in real-life settings. Instructors appreciate the educational value of experiential courses yet acknowledge that certain requirements for teaching in field settingsâe.g., using innovative pedagogy and addressing ethical predicaments--pose challenges to even the most seasoned instructor.  The chapters in this volume illustrate how the challenges of field-based classes are magnified in conflict and post-conflict contexts, where students can experience the complexity of conflict, and the dilemmas faced by those seeking to resolve it, in ways not possible in the classroom. A number of best practices emerge from the chapters. They pertain to preparing students and faculty prior to the field-based course, developing ethical research and practice skills before and during the course, and ensuring that the pedagogy generates deep, transformative learning. Other best practices address how to forge effective links between field-based courses and the overall curriculum and how to engage constructively and ethically with the communities and organizations with whom students and faculty partner during these experiences.

Author Biographies

Agnieszka Paczynska, George Mason University

Associate Professor

Susan Hirsch, George Mason University