05 June 2013

Learning through simulations-student's views

My dissertation will examine the way that students appreciate the IB Global Politics syllabus topics through their participation in classroom games and simulations. As a bit of "research reconnaissance," I've posed selected questions to my students about how they have learned through some of the scenarios we've worked through in class this year. As a part of their 3rd term survey, the GLOPO students were tasked with evaluating the relevance of the different games and simulations from the term. Using a 4-point scale, each of the 16 students were asked to rate their experience in each of the four simulations with reference to the following prompt, The following simulations enhanced my understanding of global politics this term.

These results indicate that, on balance, students agreed that simulations enhanced their understanding of the material we covered in IB Global Politics this term. A majority indicated that the agree strongly with this assertion. Indeed, when combined with the agree somewhat responses, 76% of the students' responses had a favorable view of participating in simulations with respect to their learning.

Breaking the survey responses down a little deeper; the students participated in two different types of simulations this term. "Survival" and "Rushing River Cleanup" were generalized simulation designed to teach and assess participants' decision making skills. Both required the students to think strategically and tactically in a hypothetical context. Neither simulation required research on real-world, political topics or cases. While the favorable perception of simulation is still present, there is a relatively even perceptual split amongst students who agree strongly and agree somewhat as to the utility of these simulations in learning about global politics.


The other type of simulations were full-day simulations designed to replicate real events in world politics. Students participated in a single-day, mock Security Council as a part of Lynn University's High School Model United Nations simulation. The other simulation was conducted in-house as a full-day, peace conference centered around the Democratic Republic of Congo. Students overwhelmingly indicated that agree strongly best reflected their perception of these simulations as related to learning world politics. Although 38% of the students did not participate in the Model UN simulation due to conflicting activities, it is clear that those who participated felt that this was a useful learning experience.   Student responses to the DRC simulation offer the most compelling evidence that research-oriented, complex simulations are overwhelmingly appreciated by student participants. This is also supported by the qualitative evidence in the student commentary below.


These results set up some interesting research questions and hypotheses for future inquiry; do student perceptions of the utility of of simulations and games vary by type? Is there variation of usefulness of particular simulations within these categories? Posing a hypothetical null hypothesis; students see no difference in the type of simulation as a means to understand the IB Global Politics syllabus topics. 

A second way to look at the question of how students appreciate the study of global politics through their participation in games and simulations is to offer them the opportunity to write or comment on the topic. While I did not develop an exhaustive interview script for the students, they were asked to address the following prompt, What other thoughts or commentary would you like to make regarding the simulations from this term's work? Their responses-listed below-offer some keen insights into the specific perceptions of the role of simulations in their learning. These responses also suggest that constructing a way of capturing and analyzing student responses-most likely through content analysis-can offer a more nuanced perspective on this topic as I finalize data collection methods for my dissertation. Please feel free to read through and comment on the unedited student responses below.

  • I feel like the most important one was the DRC simulation because you harnessed the inherent competitiveness and superiority complexes of our class and turned them into a useful political thing where we all learned something about theory and the practicality of it as well as the overwhelming difficulty of resolution
  • I liked the simulations
  • I prepared for Lynn MUN but was not able to participate because I took part in the Mach of the Living.  The survival simulation, in my opinion, would have been more appropriately placed in the units concerning IR theory or , because of the individual groups coming to their own opinions and then the groups working together.  The choices and compromises made model a negotiation process.  In my opinion it would have been ideal to take part in this simulation during the Iran unit to further explore negotiations with hostile states and organizations with different goals. Unfortunately I missed Rushing River for the March as well and I missed the DRC simulation for a family issue. However, I view the March as a simulation.  I witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust by actually going to the places where millions of lives were taken.  I spoke to survivors about their hardships and explored political implications such as sovereignty, human rights, armed conflict, and finally the global community defining genocide.
  • I didn't really think that the survival simulation taught me a lot about global politics.  It made us work together and come to agreements in our small groups and would have done the same thing when the whole class came together to make a master list, but someone googled the answers so it didn't really work.  I had the play during LUMUN...I thought the Rushing River simulation was really effective because it put us in actual negotiating situations where we had to compromise and experience betrayal and such.  I thought the DRC simulation was the best one because it was the most fun and also the most like real life with the debates and meetings and such.
  • They were extremely helpful and i felt well prepared for them.
  • The simulations were key in helping me grasp the material presented. They not only helped me understand what was discussed in class, but helped a lot in doing my final IA this term. 
  • The simulations were the most effective and successful was of enhancing my understanding of global politics.
  • All enhanced my understanding and demonstrated obstacles to resolving internal conflicts. 
  • the simulations were a great experience that further improved my understanding of the class
  • Applying the theory with R2P at Lynn Model UN and credible commitment theory at the DCR simulation was helpful and enjoyable. They helped illustrate the difficulties of putting abstractions into practice. I sincerely felt that the simulations had pragmatic applications in that they helped prepare me for the real world; that's something I can't say about most of my K-12 experiences. 
  • I found the Iran simulation very helpful in both understanding what was going on in Iran, but also what steps would be taken in deciding whether or not to attack and the results of an attack on the rest of the world. It really tied in everything we read and made it "real", which for me was great because I tend to learn better by visualizing things, rather than solely basing my understanding on reading. 
  • Survival-I really enjoyed this exercise. I actually think the most valuable part of this was at the end during our discussion over which items were best, for our arguments forced us to support our facts and fight for what we believed in, simulation a peace-making discussion. Lynn MUN-Because of the play, I was not able to actually go to the MUN itself. I did help my group prepare, but that only does so much. I definitely want to go to a MUN next year; they seem like fun! Rushing River Cleanup-Originally, the reason I was going to rate this lower was because I did not have as much of a hand as I wanted to in my group. This is because I was with Max and Michael, and obviously they took omnipotent control. However, I did gain valuable insight during our classroom discussion at the end and learned the importance of cooperation (and secret meetings). This experience also prepared me for the DRC simulation, for I used what I learned about cooperation (and other classmates) during this exercise to help me get my position across as South Africa. DRC-BIG BIG yes to this one. This was probably one of my favorite days of this entire year, not just in Global Politics. I could go on and on about how valuable this day was overall, but I'll just sum it up by saying that I learned a tremendous amount about not only the foreign affairs in the DRC, but the many elements of conflict as well. Looking back, I now realize how much the first three simulations helped us for the final DRC one.
  • I really enjoyed all of the simulations we attended or did in class. I don't know if it would be possible but more of these simulations would be great because I find that I learn a lot from participating in these simulations. I also enjoy them a lot too.
  • The simulations were key in building my interest for the course. I enjoyed MUN and DRC simulation. In the future, I hope to take part in more MUNs. I believe that the simulations are the core to this particular course.
  • I have realized that this is absolutely the way that I learn best. I was uncomfortable with the idea at first but not anymore. By the end of the term I was actually looking forward to the DRC simulation both when I was outside and inside of school. I wish that my other teacher's followed suit in using simulations. 

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