Problem-centered teaching methodology has been implemented with the help of a variety of teaching techniques, instruments and resources. Below we are going to present and illustrate the most significant ones:


a.Selecting highly relevant social problems proposed for classroom discussion has been a key element of all classes, which influenced to a great extent the successful application of the problem-centered teaching methods. During discussions we focused on basic - seemingly contradictory - contemporary developments: localization-globalization; regionalism-integration; homogenization-diversification etc. The lecturers raised problems such as how to overcome differences in the level of economic development, how to deal with the lack of legal harmonization, or with cultural differences. Students have been asked to offer solutions.


The introductory lecture, for instance, posed the following main issues open to discussion throughout the course:  What is the relationship between different levels of regional integration? What kind of problems emerge out of this relationship?  What is the relationship between different forms of regional integration? Are there any contradictions arising from this relationship? As one example of such potential contradiction, during Lecture 12 the debate around the definitions of what equality/inequality means dominated the problem-centred discussion. Referring to the effects of contemporary economic policies, several students expressed a rather pessimistic viewpoint concerning the ability and political will of the key “global society” actors to overcome the huge gap, which today separates the rich and the poor countries of the world. Almost all students agreed that supportive policies to the benefit of the poorer must be integrated into the concept of promoting equality, but they were divided in assessing just how far such supportive policies should go. 


b. Discussing the significance of key social concepts in view of regional needs has been used an essential methodological tool subordinated to the task of applying interactive solutions throughout the process of learning. The major aim was to develop critical thinking of students and to enhance their ability of using concepts in a creative way, taking into account the necessity to permanently revise and redefine concepts, in order to adjust them to the theoretical and practical-political requirements derivable from the changing social context.


To illustrate this point, during lecture 2, problem centered  discussions focused on the challenges to the traditional concept of nation state posed on the one hand by globalization and on the other hand by regionalization. Building upon the conclusions and the understanding achieved of this debate, at the subsequent class the main themes concerned the applicability of the concepts of equality/fairness/equity versus inequality/inequity/competition at the level of regional and local communities involved in regional development and cooperation: What are the short-term medium-term and long-term costs and benefits of regionalization? How these costs and benefits are divided between the more developed and less developed regions? Who are going to be the winners and the losers?


c. Analyzing hypothetical real-life situations linked to issues of regional development also proved to be a very useful method in bringing closer the theoretical concepts to the social practice. In this regard, the main preoccupation of our teaching team was to construct and conceptually define hypothetical contexts with a strong social and political relevance, enabling students to intellectually benefit as much as possible from debating and analysing everyday-life facts and phenomena.


For example, during Lecture 11 the key concept of problem-centred discussions was that of membership in its various interpretations (membership of a local/regional community, ethnicity, nationhood, nation-state citizenship, European citizenship). Students were asked to give their opinion concerning possible changes in the way people from the region are going to redefine their identity and membership as the outcome of ongoing major contemporary transformations (regionalization, globalization, EU enlargement, technical-communicational advance etc.) It was generally agreed that the emerging new social and political context created much more favourable conditions for inter-cultural dialogue and cooperation compared to past, but it would be necessary also to educate the population in order to be able and motivated to take advantage of the new opportunities.  


d. The use of existing research outcome on regional development (case studies, policy papers)


In view of our teaching aims, the problem solving method was designed with a focus on the discussion and evaluation of particular legal frameworks and institution building policies in the field of regional and cross-border cooperation in the post-communist region. In order to link as much as possible theoretical and factual knowledge to research and social practice, and thus develop the research skills and practical-professional skills of the students, the course activities included certain innovative components based on the use of already existing research outcome:



The effectiveness of all these activities has been greatly enhanced by the availability of a great diversity of information resources to our students. We conceived a portfolio of our resources where each type of source is complementary to the others, so as to achieve together the highest possible educational impact: 


-         a course reader in English, which includes fundamental texts and relevant case studies on regional development and cooperation, thus offering students an overview and a  basic guidance in this field

-         a course reader in  electronic format (as part of the course portfolio webpage) which made available to students a collection of  essential information concerning regional institution building in the context of the ongoing European integration process

-         a comprehensive list of electronic links to EU information resources

-         digitalized access to a number of policy papers and case studies relevant to regional studies

-         bibliographical list in electronic format

-         special thematic collection of books in the university library (including the books bought from the CEU-CRC grant)

-         selected student papers