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Getting the Most from Classroom Simulations: Strategies for Maximizing Learning Outcomes
Unformatted Document Text:  learning opportunities. In order to take full advantage of all of the components of this experience, it is best to do so over time and through different approaches. There are several useful approaches to the debriefing process presented here that can be used to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise. Group debriefing session The first part of the debriefing process (and generally the one that is most anticipated by students) is the group debriefing session. This should be held as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the exercise, ideally immediately after it ends, so that recollections are fresh and students are still in their assigned roles. This approach is often referred to as a “hot” or “flash” debrief since participants have just stepped out of the simulation. While these debriefing sessions can occasionally be tense, this passion can also be redirected to increase student understanding of the complexities of the subject matter at hand. (For example, the emotions of participants engaged in negotiating a conflict settlement or passing a bill through Congress). If the debrief is not immediate, it is helpful to take a few minutes to recap the exercise and to ask students to take on their roles once again by sitting with their group, for example. The first aspect of the group debrief should be an opportunity for students to “vent” or express their general feelings about the exercise. Frustration and excitement about the results are natural outcomes, and students should have an opportunity to express this at the start of the session. Doing this first allows them to decompress a bit, and also provides some points for discussion throughout the remainder of the session. While the instructor must maintain order in the classroom, some back-and-forth between teams is normal in this phase of the group debrief and can be directed into positive learning opportunities. For example, confusion about the behavior of another team can be used to illustrate differences in preferences expressed by rational actors in a negotiation context. It is often most effective if he instructor steers this discussion to roughly follow the narrative of the simulation, focusing on clear decision points and/or actions taken by the parties. A direct outcome of the venting phase can be insight into the motivations, positions and interests of other parties. Teams should be encouraged at this point to explain their actions in the context of their assigned roles and their outcome preferences for the simulation. Now that the simulation has ended, students should be encouraged to share confidential information about their roles, such as data they alone could access or the results of their research and planning. This allows students to talk about their team preparation and their strategies for the exercise, and affords an opportunity for the instructor to relate this back to course learning objectives. In particular, discussions about the difficulty that parties face in cooperating or reaching formal agreements fit well within this discussion, since the motivations of the various parties are open and available for questioning by others. At the end of this session, it is often useful to have a discussion about group process, including the difficulties individual students faced in working with a group (i.e. 12

Authors: Wedig, Tim.
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learning opportunities. In order to take full advantage of all of the components of this
experience, it is best to do so over time and through different approaches. There are
several useful approaches to the debriefing process presented here that can be used to
maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.
Group debriefing session
The first part of the debriefing process (and generally the one that is most
anticipated by students) is the group debriefing session. This should be held as quickly as
possible after the conclusion of the exercise, ideally immediately after it ends, so that
recollections are fresh and students are still in their assigned roles. This approach is often
referred to as a “hot” or “flash” debrief since participants have just stepped out of the
simulation. While these debriefing sessions can occasionally be tense, this passion can
also be redirected to increase student understanding of the complexities of the subject
matter at hand. (For example, the emotions of participants engaged in negotiating a
conflict settlement or passing a bill through Congress). If the debrief is not immediate, it
is helpful to take a few minutes to recap the exercise and to ask students to take on their
roles once again by sitting with their group, for example.
The first aspect of the group debrief should be an opportunity for students to
“vent” or express their general feelings about the exercise. Frustration and excitement
about the results are natural outcomes, and students should have an opportunity to
express this at the start of the session. Doing this first allows them to decompress a bit,
and also provides some points for discussion throughout the remainder of the session.
While the instructor must maintain order in the classroom, some back-and-forth between
teams is normal in this phase of the group debrief and can be directed into positive
learning opportunities. For example, confusion about the behavior of another team can
be used to illustrate differences in preferences expressed by rational actors in a
negotiation context. It is often most effective if he instructor steers this discussion to
roughly follow the narrative of the simulation, focusing on clear decision points and/or
actions taken by the parties.
A direct outcome of the venting phase can be insight into the motivations,
positions and interests of other parties. Teams should be encouraged at this point to
explain their actions in the context of their assigned roles and their outcome preferences
for the simulation. Now that the simulation has ended, students should be encouraged to
share confidential information about their roles, such as data they alone could access or
the results of their research and planning. This allows students to talk about their team
preparation and their strategies for the exercise, and affords an opportunity for the
instructor to relate this back to course learning objectives. In particular, discussions
about the difficulty that parties face in cooperating or reaching formal agreements fit well
within this discussion, since the motivations of the various parties are open and available
for questioning by others.
At the end of this session, it is often useful to have a discussion about group
process, including the difficulties individual students faced in working with a group (i.e.
12


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