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E=MC2: Teaching with Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  At the conclusion of the two American Government courses, the two classes were compared according to results on the same conventional measures of learning. Again, participation grades for the simulation in the experimental class were not included in the analysis to keep the focus on conventional learning. Control Class Experimental Class Class Size 41 students 40 students A (range 720-800) 2 3 B (range 640-719) 8 9 C (range 560-639) 21 20 D (range 480-559) 7 5 F (range 0-479) 3 3 Class Average 589.58 598.35 The data from those completing or attempting to complete the courses showed that both classes performed the same (a “C” average with a similar grade distribution) on the examinations and term paper assignments. Once more, results showed that the time devoted to the simulation did not reduce content learning. Again, the students built upon their content learning base and acquired new information about the political process from the simulation. In addition, indirect indicators (student satisfaction in the current semester and increased enrollment in later semesters) also improved. Another interesting finding emerged when looking at the final examination essays of the class that used the simulation in 1994. Student essays were of a higher quality (5% higher) compared to the average essay grades in the earlier part of the course. In fact, in later semesters, the essay examinations on the simulation got even better. By contrast, the final examination results in the 1993 control class were consistent with the performance on earlier exams. It is my guess that the simulation students wrote better essays because they were more engaged in the learning process. They were writing about concepts that they had experienced through the simulation. USING SIMULATIONS EFFECTIVELY Effective use of the simulation approach will depend on the underlying design of the simulation as well as implementation and evaluation techniques. I am convinced that these factors determine the overall quality of the simulation experience for students. Design As I noted in my presentation before APSA in August of 2003, simulations can be limited by the problems of artificiality, inflexibility, inaccessibility and obsolescence. That is, simulations can break down because they are too unrealistic, rigid, incomprehensible and out of date. Each of these problems can be remedied at the front end or design stage. In order to remedy many of these problems, I have found it useful and effective to think of a simulation in terms of a game analogy. You can envision

Authors: Jansiewicz, Donald.
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At the conclusion of the two American Government courses, the two classes were
compared according to results on the same conventional measures of learning. Again,
participation grades for the simulation in the experimental class were not included in the
analysis to keep the focus on conventional learning.
Control Class
Experimental Class
Class Size
41 students
40 students
A (range 720-800)
2
3
B (range 640-719)
8
9
C (range 560-639)
21
20
D (range 480-559)
7
5
F (range 0-479)
3
3
Class Average
589.58 598.35
The data from those completing or attempting to complete the courses showed
that both classes performed the same (a “C” average with a similar grade distribution) on
the examinations and term paper assignments. Once more, results showed that the time
devoted to the simulation did not reduce content learning. Again, the students built upon
their content learning base and acquired new information about the political process from
the simulation. In addition, indirect indicators (student satisfaction in the current
semester and increased enrollment in later semesters) also improved.
Another interesting finding emerged when looking at the final examination essays
of the class that used the simulation in 1994. Student essays were of a higher quality (5%
higher) compared to the average essay grades in the earlier part of the course. In fact, in
later semesters, the essay examinations on the simulation got even better. By contrast,
the final examination results in the 1993 control class were consistent with the
performance on earlier exams. It is my guess that the simulation students wrote better
essays because they were more engaged in the learning process. They were writing
about concepts that they had experienced through the simulation.
USING SIMULATIONS EFFECTIVELY
Effective use of the simulation approach will depend on the underlying
design of the simulation as well as implementation and evaluation techniques. I
am convinced that these factors determine the overall quality of the simulation
experience for students.
Design
As I noted in my presentation before APSA in August of 2003, simulations
can be limited by the problems of artificiality, inflexibility, inaccessibility and
obsolescence. That is, simulations can break down because they are too
unrealistic, rigid, incomprehensible and out of date. Each of these problems can
be remedied at the front end or design stage.
In order to remedy many of these problems, I have found it useful and
effective to think of a simulation in terms of a game analogy. You can envision


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