08 March 2013

Iran Nuclear Crisis: Using simulations to understand global politics.

To what extent can we use simulations to enhance our understanding of global political challenges? How can students meaningfully appreciate the complexity of world politics?

One of the first non-Model United Nations games that we engaged in this year was to play the Truman National Security Project's web based simulation, Tell Me How This Ends. In order to prepare for this, students engaged in preliminary research on Iran, detailed investigations on Iran's nuclear program, a review of the policy debate about the utility of Iran's nuclear program and the pros and cons of attacking Iran, as well as a primer on U.S. foreign policy decision making. Throughout the process, students were assessed with narrative feedback on their ideas and analysis, often conveyed through Visible Thinking Routines, presentations, article summaries, responses to online polls, and reflections on the simulation. The students also demonstrated their understanding of the material in a summative case study. The complete lesson can be found here. I've also enclosed some pictures of students engaging in heated debate and decision making during the simulation, as well as an example of some student responses to the Visible Thinking Routine, Headlines.

I found this entire project-from design to implementation to revision and now increasingly sharing it with others-incredibly meaningful. More importantly, the students (I hate saying "my students"; they're not-we share a learning space together) found this unit to be one of the most useful and formative for themselves. Some of the students chose to use this experience to craft their Political Engagement Activity (Internal Assessment) that is a part of their International Baccalaureate coursework. Most of the students told me in one form or another that the process of research, action, and reflection through this simulation allowed them to understand the complexity of this issue in ways that were not possible if we had simply engaged in traditional classroom practices. All of the conversations I had with students, observation of and listening to students that I did during the simulation, and comments and feedback I gave the students on their written work point to the fact that they truly understand big, complex ideas such as sovereignty and security, as well as the granular details of the U.S.-Iranian confrontation that Graham Allison described as, "the Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion."