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Finding the Balance in Public Policy Simulations and Role Playing
Unformatted Document Text:  Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008 randomly select a student to present her or his group’s backgrounder to the class. One problem I have experienced here is that the students tend to start giving their simulation group’s policy case orientation rather than the political or generic policy orientation, when they are doing this class presentation. I ask them not to do “give away” their case study policy interests or triage on which they will be negotiating the next week and redirect them back to the larger dynamics that their fellow students will not be researching. This involves interrupting their oral presentation but since it is an informal presentation and has no mark they seem to take it in stride. I warn them before they begin that I may be doing this and they are not to feel insulted since we are all engaging in a new experience. The instructor’s role in this intra-group and class collaboration stage is to monitor the various groups of actors who will be meeting as a party, government, etc, in order to coordinate their research and come up with their policy triage list. It is best not to interfere with this list since it is part of the learning experience and later they will realize their arguments over which items take priority were not dissimilar to those between political parties, governments, and other vested interests during the simulation. When the groups present their oral backgrounder, the instructor may have to supplement their comments a bit, depending upon their level of sophistication in understanding the political dynamics surrounding their group. This may depend somewhat on the course in which the simulation is situated. If the course is a policy course for example and the students have never been taught much party politics, they mean needed to help with this. Overall, though, the instructor’s role during this week is essentially to monitor and reassure the students. The student’s role in this intra-group and class collaboration stage is to come to the class with an understanding of the political and policy dynamics of their roles and enough research materials with which to work within their own group developing a policy triage for the next. They also each need to be prepared in case they are the one called on to present political dynamics of their group to the class. I recommend you have them make up tables for both of these requirements. Asal and Blake suggest a table for ranking party issues. (Asal and Blake 2006, p.13) This can be modified for both the intra-group ranking and the presentation of the group’s political stance and overall policy preferences. They can rough these out during this class, leaving room to add the rest of the class groups onto the table to use during the negotiation class. One thing that starts to happen in the intra-group and class collaboration stage of the process is that the student’s roles begin to differentiate. Up until this point all of the students have simply been conducting their research and working on their individual assignment but on the day of the group meetings where a policy triage needs to be decided on by the group, power differentials may begin to show up. The more powerful players may decide to use their power at this stage to dominate or have the last word on the policy triage (then later in the negotiations and simulation). This, of course, would be legitimate given that the real-life pre-simulation decisions would certainly play out these power dynamics within the groups. For my part, I have found it best not to interfere at this stage even if one of my powerful politicians is acting suspiciously consensus oriented. I simply make mental note of this to keep an eye on it for the negotiation 12

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
randomly select a student to present her or his group’s backgrounder to the class. One problem I
have experienced here is that the students tend to start giving their simulation group’s policy case
orientation rather than the political or generic policy orientation, when they are doing this class
presentation. I ask them not to do “give away” their case study policy interests or triage on which
they will be negotiating the next week and redirect them back to the larger dynamics that their
fellow students will not be researching. This involves interrupting their oral presentation but
since it is an informal presentation and has no mark they seem to take it in stride. I warn them
before they begin that I may be doing this and they are not to feel insulted since we are all
engaging in a new experience.
The instructor’s role in this intra-group and class collaboration stage is to monitor the various
groups of actors who will be meeting as a party, government, etc, in order to coordinate their
research and come up with their policy triage list. It is best not to interfere with this list since it is
part of the learning experience and later they will realize their arguments over which items take
priority were not dissimilar to those between political parties, governments, and other vested
interests during the simulation. When the groups present their oral backgrounder, the instructor
may have to supplement their comments a bit, depending upon their level of sophistication in
understanding the political dynamics surrounding their group. This may depend somewhat on the
course in which the simulation is situated. If the course is a policy course for example and the
students have never been taught much party politics, they mean needed to help with this. Overall,
though, the instructor’s role during this week is essentially to monitor and reassure the students.
The student’s role in this intra-group and class collaboration stage is to come to the class with an
understanding of the political and policy dynamics of their roles and enough research materials
with which to work within their own group developing a policy triage for the next. They also
each need to be prepared in case they are the one called on to present political dynamics of their
group to the class. I recommend you have them make up tables for both of these requirements.
Asal and Blake suggest a table for ranking party issues. (Asal and Blake 2006, p.13) This can be
modified for both the intra-group ranking and the presentation of the group’s political stance and
overall policy preferences. They can rough these out during this class, leaving room to add the
rest of the class groups onto the table to use during the negotiation class.
One thing that starts to happen in the intra-group and class collaboration stage of the process is
that the student’s roles begin to differentiate. Up until this point all of the students have simply
been conducting their research and working on their individual assignment but on the day of the
group meetings where a policy triage needs to be decided on by the group, power differentials
may begin to show up. The more powerful players may decide to use their power at this stage to
dominate or have the last word on the policy triage (then later in the negotiations and
simulation). This, of course, would be legitimate given that the real-life pre-simulation decisions
would certainly play out these power dynamics within the groups. For my part, I have found it
best not to interfere at this stage even if one of my powerful politicians is acting suspiciously
consensus oriented. I simply make mental note of this to keep an eye on it for the negotiation
12


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