This module is a resource for lecturers
This section contains suggestions for in-class and pre-class educational exercises, while a post-class assignment for assessing student understanding of the Module is suggested in a separate section.
The exercises in this section are most appropriate for classes of up to 50 students, where students can be easily organized into small groups in which they discuss cases or conduct activities before group representatives provide feedback to the entire class. Although it is possible to have the same small group structure in large classes comprising a few hundred students, it is more challenging and the lecturer might wish to adapt facilitation techniques to ensure sufficient time for group discussions as well as providing feedback to the entire class. The easiest way to deal with the requirement for small group discussion in a large class is to ask students to discuss the issues with the four or five students sitting closest to them. Given time limitations, not all groups will be able to provide feedback in each exercise. It is recommended that the lecturer makes random selections and tries to ensure that all groups get the opportunity to provide feedback at least once during the session. If time permits, the lecturer could facilitate a discussion in plenary after each group has provided feedback.
All exercises in this section are appropriate for both graduate and undergraduate students. However, as students' prior knowledge and exposure to these issues vary widely, decisions about the appropriateness of exercises should be based on their educational and social context. The lecturer is encouraged to relate and connect each exercise to the key issues of the Module.
It is recommended that lecturers begin building a conducive and sympathetic environment at the start of class and before conducting the very first exercise. This can be done by breaking the ice in a supportive way, by respectfully examining students' starting orientations to corruption, and by demonstrating genuine interest in their perspectives. Once students come to see the lecturer as respectful, genuinely interested in their orientation to the material, and consistent in policing any snide or unsupportive comments by class members, that safe environment will enable effective learning and development.
Exercise 1: My story
Ask the students to take five minutes in silence to reflect upon a simple question: How has corruption affected you or someone you know? Once you have decided on an anecdote to share, please jot down on paper three things: first, the basics of what you wish to share with the class; second, how your real-life example of corruption affected you or your acquaintance; and third, upon reflection, what is corrupt or corrupting about the example you have described.
This exercise can be conducted after the initial lecture and discussion about how to define corruption in general. Because this exercise gives students a chance to reflect on how corruption has affected them or someone they know, its most natural place lies right before the conversation about corruption's effects. The last part of the instructions is important, because students sometimes forget what they wanted to say after hearing compelling stories from other class members.
Beyond the potential for students' anecdotes to inspire others and "raise the stakes" in terms of painting corruption as something that affects people personally everywhere, this exercise ought to help the lecturer begin a conversation about corruption's different types of impact. Most of the students' anecdotes will be personal of course (not systemic), but if any such anecdote (such as being extorted by police officers or paying small bribes to government officials in order to go about one's life or business plans) can provide the basis for a discussion of systemic effects, because it is rare to hear of an isolated incident regarding corruption. Most incidents are actually reflections of structural realities affecting many people and organizations. In any case, the lecturer should begin to relate each anecdote to a particular category of effects, as listed in the section "Effects of corruption". Beyond relating the personal to the systemic, the lecturer should endeavour to ask students follow-up questions about how the example of corruption they gave made them feel and how it affected them. This often takes some gentle nudging and, certainly, a "safe environment" for sharing personal stories.
Exercise 2: "I am corruption" - where do you stand?
After introducing the topics of the Module, walk into the middle of the room and announce: "I am corruption. Now, on the basis of me being the actual embodiment of corruption, I want you all to get up from your seats and arrange yourselves accordingly. Please proceed to whatever part of the room you wish. And then please stay put and remain silent."
Students will likely hesitate and give each other sideways glances. If they do not react to the instructions as stated above, the lecturer may wish to clarify as follows: "We are conducting an experiment here. You must imagine right now that I am corruption - that corruption is here, now, right where I am standing. On this basis, you must position yourselves wherever you want in the room." Give students a minute or two to position themselves, remind them not to move once they have found their place, and then once everyone has stopped moving, begin the following two-step debrief.
The first step is to ask the class as a whole: "Why have you chosen this particular place in the room?" Usually several hands go up, but if not, the lecturer may simply call on students at random. It is important to reframe students' responses and ask "is that right?" to give them a chance to fully formulate and confirm their reasons for standing or sitting where they are, and for other members of the class to better process those reasons and begin reflecting on their own. In a class of 15 students or less, it is possible to have an exchange with each student, most of whom will only require 5-30 seconds to give their responses. Students who are called only later, once others have shared their answers, will tend to take less time to give their responses, many simply echoing others who came before.
After exploring several responses to the above question, the second step of the debrief is to ask a number of students to relate their position in the room to their definition of corruption. For example, "Mr./Ms., you mentioned that you are standing far away from corruption in order to escape or keep a safe distance. Why? What are you implying that corruption means or is?" "Mr./Ms., you stated that your close proximity to corruption reflects an interest in courageously standing up to it. But what do you understand it to be? Why is it important to stand up to it?" "Mr./Ms., you chose a position that allows you to critically observe corruption. Why is that important to do? What do you understand corruption to be? Why must it be observed or monitored?"
This exercise works best in a seminar room where students can easily leave their seats, move around and rearrange themselves as needed. It is designed to allow students to discover their pre-existing orientation to the topic of corruption, as well as their intrinsic, possibly unconscious definitions of corruption. For this exercise to bear fruit, lecturers must not reveal its purpose until the very end.
The first step of the debrief serves the purpose of discovering students' initial orientations to corruption. For example, students standing close to the lecturer may be poised to "tackle" corruption or apprehend offenders. Others close by may simply want to observe the phenomenon in great detail. Those far away, especially those positioned close to doors or windows may be poised to flee or escape corruption. Alternatively, others who are far away may report an interest in gaining a critical distance from corruption and observing it from a more objective or wider vantage point. Those in the middle may be seeking a balance between courage and safety, a sort of middle ground from which to address corruption or observe corruption relatively close up without compromising their safety or objectivity. It is important that the lecturer writes down or commits to memory the gist of students' responses, because the next step in the debrief depends on that. The second step of the debrief will allow students to explore and articulate their own understanding of corruption and its effects.
Exercise 3: The rise of the super rich
The lecturer presents to the students this 15-minute TED talk by Chrystia Freeland on the rise of the super-rich (2013). The video discusses the rise of a new class of plutocrats who are extremely powerful because of their wealth, and it illustrates how crony capitalism promotes favourable laws and outcomes for the wealthy. Following the TED talk, ask each student to write a "minute paper" describing their understanding of the relationship between corruption and wealth. Collect the papers and ask a few students to read their description and use this to facilitate a class discussion.
This exercise will help students understand the relationship between corruption and wealth, as well as some of corruption's more subtle forms such as cronyism and nepotism. This is a quick, simple but engaging exercise meant to promote critical thinking and class discussion. In case of shortage of time, the lecturer can ask the students to watch the TED talk at home before class, and carry out the rest of the exercise in class.
Exercise 4: Defining corruption, individually and by consensus
Ask students to take five minutes to write down on a piece of blank paper a general definition of corruption - a single definition that conveys the entire concept. Once those five minutes are up, either ask students to read and explain the definitions they noted, or to shuffle the anonymous pieces of paper and hand them out to the class at random, asking each class member to read and argue the pros and cons of the definition they received. The lecturer can push back against and gently critique each definition, exposing its limitations and assumptions. The lecturer may wish to then give the students a chance to defend or revise their definition.
Alternatively, asks the students to break up into groups of 3-5. One student must be chosen as a rapporteur to capture the group's final consensus and read it to the class. The instructions are simple: "Please take 10 minutes to work together to arrive at a definition of corruption by consensus. Write down that definition and prepare to explain to the class your reasons for choosing it. If no consensus can be reached, please write down the reasons why this was the case and what different definitions were proposed but rejected by the group."
Whether the students worked individually or in groups, the lecturer should take notes on each person's or group's definition. On a flipchart, white board or blackboard visible to the entire class, the lecturer should capture key language from a sample of definitions offered by class members. It is appropriate to ask the class how each definition is different from the others, but the discussion works best if conducted by the lecturer.
This exercise should ideally be conducted towards the end of class as a way of incorporating all the insights gained therein. The lecturer could remind students of their initial orientations towards corruption, their personal anecdotes, corruption's effects, and a few specific definitions of corruption, such as "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain," "capture by evil," and a list of legal offences, as well as reminding students of the various types of definitions, such as economic, moral, ethnographic, political, and legal. The purpose of this exercise is to expose students to the difficulty of writing and choosing a general definition of corruption - a difficulty that exists even if one is simply choosing a definition to endorse personally, but which is heightened considerably in the group context of consensus-building. This struggle will cause students to critically reflect on corruption's multidimensional, politicized, and subjective nature. And it is hugely helpful in incentivizing the students to critically engage with (and therefore integrate and learn from) the readings addressing the definition and effects of corruption.
One way to facilitate the discussion is to write down several juxtapositions or spectrums that apply to definitions of corruption, such as:
- individual versus systemic
- cultural versus universal
- moral versus economic
- legal shell theory versus normative
- private versus public, and petty versus grand
- deontological versus instrumental or results-based
The lecturer can then work, ideally with collaboration from the students, to situate each definition within these axes, typologies, dichotomies, juxtapositions, or spectrums. If some definition offered by a student does not correspond to any of these, that would be truly remarkable!
Lecturers may wish to emphasize how many of these concepts are not mutually exclusive, and how corruption is a multidimensional, interdisciplinary phenomenon. The moral of the story may be, however, that as multifaceted as corruption may be, there may well be a "right definition" (or better and worse definitions) as a function of the purpose to which each corresponds. The right legal definition could hardly be "capture by evil," for how could that be applied by judges short of conducting a witch trial or spiritual examination? The right moral definition can hardly be bribery, extortion, money-laundering and so on, for those categories respond to types of actions, not the ethics, trade-offs, and values linked to the behaviour in question. The right economic definition can hardly be the undermining of self-governance or representation. There are multiple definitions of corruption because societies, organizations, and individuals come to corruption with different concerns and goals in mind. As illustrated in the subsequent E4J Modules on Anti-Corruption, our starting points - whether those of good governance, politics, public sector, private sector, detection and investigation, human rights, gender, education, citizen participation, peace and security, international anti-corruption initiatives, national anti-corruption frameworks, and the transition from a focus on anti-corruption compliance to a focus on building integrity - all invoke different concepts and reasoning in addressing different concerns.
In discussing the meanings of corruption, lecturers may wish to push back against the dramatic, high minded account of corruption as total collapse or destruction. As part of the task of cultivating critical thinking, it is important to ask whether corruption always leads to collapse or destruction and whether what came before the corruption in question was really a state of legitimate and effective government. At times, corruption may be better conceived as a suboptimal way of getting things done when ethically superior ways are perceived of as being unavailable, flawed, or too costly.
Next: Possible class structure