Using a Role-Playing Simulation to Bridge Theory and
Practice in Graduate Professional Education
Ryan Williams and Matt Bonham
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
APSA Teaching and Learning Conference
22-24 February 2008
San Jose, California
In this paper Ryan and Matt explore the challenge of strengthening a professional Masters program in International Relations, one that offers a core curriculum in theory and methodology, but also practical skills for helping students to launch successful careers in governmental and non-governmental organizations. Dissatisfaction on the part of both faculty and students with a traditional capstone requirement, a 35-page Masters paper, led to a search for a more skills-oriented capstone experience, a role-playing simulation. The first simulation exercise was run in May 2007, after the students had completed their core curriculum. The simulation was designed to build bridges from course work in theory and methodology to career building skills, specifically, policy research that takes into account contextual factors; decision-making; small group interaction; negotiation and bargaining; oral and written advocacy; and self- reflection. Using text and pictures, Matt and Ryan describe the content and structure of the simulation, simulation outcomes, and reactions of the student participants. They conclude with a short discussion of the lessons learned, and improvements in the design and implementation of the exercise to provide a more satisfying integrative experience.