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Using a Role-Playing Simulation to Bridge Theory and Practice in Graduate Professional Education
Unformatted Document Text:  Using a Role-Playing Simulation to Bridge Theory and Practice in Graduate Professional Education Why are we investing so much effort into “disrupting” and “transforming” the international relations classroom? The original impetus for our efforts was our dissatisfaction with traditional teaching and learning methods. This dissatisfaction went beyond the classroom and had much to do with the career aspirations of our students. The goal of our professional IR program is to train students as practitioners by providing them with the experiences and skills they need for their careers, in conjunction with relevant, substantive content. In the twenty-first century, they will have to negotiate and collaborate with people around the world who may or may not share their world views or values. Our graduates will not only engage in face-to-face negation, but they will also have to interact with people they have never met using digital and Web-based The Capstone Simulation Although a majority of our professional degree students benefited from our experiments with Web-based teaching and applications of collaborative hypertext, we decided that the program could be further strengthened by developing learning opportunities that were less focused on digital technology. In the fall of 2003, after a thorough evaluation of the professional MA-IR Program by Maxwell School faculty and staff, we decided to develop a one-credit integrative capstone experience as part of a new set of core requirements. The other new requirements for the Program included a course in the History of International Relations, two “signature courses,” Culture in World Affairs and Comparative Foreign Policy, and a course called Qualitative Skills for International Relations. These courses would be required in addition to existing courses in Microeconomics and Quantitative Skills in International Relations. The previous capstone experience for the MA-IR Program was a thirty-page Masters Paper that was a holdover from the an earlier version of the program, a thirty credit Masters Degree offered to students who planned to pursue a Ph D. in the field. Although some students liked the idea of a “MA Thesis,” many of them had difficulty completing it in a timely fashion, and some faculty members found the end product did not meet their own academic expectations. Additionally, faculty members were not compensated for serving as MA paper readers, and many were not enthusiastic about the extra responsibilities. The rationale for the new capstone was that it would provide an integrative experience that was more relevant for the career goals of professional degree students. In addition, faculty hoped that the experience “would build esprit among students and provide them with vital international leadership skills, coupled with the opportunity to put those skills into practice in a transnational simulation project. It would involve multiple Maxwell faculty members together with teams of students, and would naturally engender distinctive Maxwell approaches to skills, scholarship, issues, and practice.” 3

Authors: Bonham, G. Matthew.
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Using a Role-Playing Simulation to Bridge Theory and Practice in Graduate Professional Education
Why are we investing so much effort into “disrupting” and “transforming” the
international relations classroom? The original impetus for our efforts was our
dissatisfaction with traditional teaching and learning methods. This
dissatisfaction went beyond the classroom and had much to do with the career
aspirations of our students. The goal of our professional IR program is to train
students as practitioners by providing them with the experiences and skills they
need for their careers, in conjunction with relevant, substantive content. In the
twenty-first century, they will have to negotiate and collaborate with people
around the world who may or may not share their world views or values. Our
graduates will not only engage in face-to-face negation, but they will also have to
interact with people they have never met using digital and Web-based
The Capstone Simulation
Although a majority of our professional degree students benefited from our
experiments with Web-based teaching and applications of collaborative
hypertext, we decided that the program could be further strengthened by
developing learning opportunities that were less focused on digital technology. In
the fall of 2003, after a thorough evaluation of the professional MA-IR Program
by Maxwell School faculty and staff, we decided to develop a one-credit
integrative capstone experience as part of a new set of core requirements. The
other new requirements for the Program included a course in the History of
International Relations, two “signature courses,” Culture in World Affairs and
Comparative Foreign Policy, and a course called Qualitative Skills for
International Relations. These courses would be required in addition to existing
courses in Microeconomics and Quantitative Skills in International Relations.
The previous capstone experience for the MA-IR Program was a thirty-page
Masters Paper that was a holdover from the an earlier version of the program, a
thirty credit Masters Degree offered to students who planned to pursue a Ph D. in
the field. Although some students liked the idea of a “MA Thesis,” many of them
had difficulty completing it in a timely fashion, and some faculty members found
the end product did not meet their own academic expectations. Additionally,
faculty members were not compensated for serving as MA paper readers, and
many were not enthusiastic about the extra responsibilities.
The rationale for the new capstone was that it would provide an integrative
experience that was more relevant for the career goals of professional degree
students. In addition, faculty hoped that the experience “would build esprit
among students and provide them with vital international leadership skills,
coupled with the opportunity to put those skills into practice in a transnational
simulation project. It would involve multiple Maxwell faculty members together
with teams of students, and would naturally engender distinctive Maxwell
approaches to skills, scholarship, issues, and practice.”
3


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