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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 simulating reality and it is not as predictable as a political science course; b) I want them to feel some frustration since that is part of the point of the simulation given that that is how the political, bureaucratic and interest group actors feel in the real life events we are simulating, particularly the least powerful actors in the simulation; and c) the final marks in my courses are not lower than those of more traditional courses. (One student reported, “The simulation process of the parliamentary parties committee revealed for this participant unexpected feelings of enlightenment, frustration and collegiality that converged simultaneously.”) I also tell the students that this is a good experience because they will be expected to go to meetings in any professional job and they will not, as new employees, likely have everything laid out clearly for them before the meeting. I also report to them that some of my former graduates have told me they ended up in exactly the type of meetings we had simulated in class and those in real life were very much like our reproduction, both exciting and frustrating. One student who played the role of an Aboriginal representative into an all-party policy committee meeting commented, “It was quite a learning experience. I left feeling very frustrated… All in all it was an enlightening learning experience. I can just imagine the scrimmaging and strategizing that goes on in the halls of Parliament. I can’t wait to become a player in the game some day.” With regard to reduced workload, it is helpful to make use of two of your course assignments for the preparation and debriefing stages of the simulation, with clear directions as to how the students will be evaluated. The three stages need to be explained clearly to the students and an assignment sheet handed out on each. The process and assignments I have developed for these policy simulations is as follows: PRE-SIMULATION PRE-SIMULATION EARLY PREPARATORY STAGE 1. Briefly Explain the Whole Process at the Front End of the Course In the introduction to the course it is important to explain the simulation process and why it is you are using it. The above section of this paper on the Simulation/Course Balance contains the kind of reasons I use here, particularly their need to understand the role of power and human relations in policy development and the battering that reasoned policy arguments take in the policy making process. I also explain to the students that the political science education literature has demonstrated the efficacy of this mode of teaching and former students of mine have told me they found the simulations to be a valuable learning experience as well as a nice change from the usual essay or exam mode of evaluation. It is also necessary to explain to the students that if they cannot be available for the date of the simulation (and preferably the negotiation date the week prior), they should not take the course because they would have difficulty completing the required assignments properly. I inform them that the simulation is the equivalent of an exam and therefore mandatory. Because some students will likely exhibit some anxiety about this mode of learning, you might wish to be prepared to hand out detailed assignments at this stage. 7

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
simulating reality and it is not as predictable as a political science course; b) I want them to feel
some frustration since that is part of the point of the simulation given that that is how the
political, bureaucratic and interest group actors feel in the real life events we are simulating,
particularly the least powerful actors in the simulation; and c) the final marks in my courses are
not lower than those of more traditional courses. (One student reported, “The simulation process
of the parliamentary parties committee revealed for this participant unexpected feelings of
enlightenment, frustration and collegiality that converged simultaneously.”) I also tell the
students that this is a good experience because they will be expected to go to meetings in any
professional job and they will not, as new employees, likely have everything laid out clearly for
them before the meeting. I also report to them that some of my former graduates have told me
they ended up in exactly the type of meetings we had simulated in class and those in real life
were very much like our reproduction, both exciting and frustrating. One student who played the
role of an Aboriginal representative into an all-party policy committee meeting commented, “It
was quite a learning experience. I left feeling very frustrated… All in all it was an enlightening
learning experience. I can just imagine the scrimmaging and strategizing that goes on in the halls
of Parliament. I can’t wait to become a player in the game some day.”
With regard to reduced workload, it is helpful to make use of two of your course assignments for
the preparation and debriefing stages of the simulation, with clear directions as to how the
students will be evaluated. The three stages need to be explained clearly to the students and an
assignment sheet handed out on each. The process and assignments I have developed for these
policy simulations is as follows:
PRE-SIMULATION
PRE-SIMULATION EARLY PREPARATORY STAGE
1.
Briefly Explain the Whole Process at the Front End of the Course
In the introduction to the course it is important to explain the simulation process and why it is
you are using it. The above section of this paper on the Simulation/Course Balance contains the
kind of reasons I use here, particularly their need to understand the role of power and human
relations in policy development and the battering that reasoned policy arguments take in the
policy making process. I also explain to the students that the political science education literature
has demonstrated the efficacy of this mode of teaching and former students of mine have told me
they found the simulations to be a valuable learning experience as well as a nice change from the
usual essay or exam mode of evaluation. It is also necessary to explain to the students that if they
cannot be available for the date of the simulation (and preferably the negotiation date the week
prior), they should not take the course because they would have difficulty completing the
required assignments properly. I inform them that the simulation is the equivalent of an exam
and therefore mandatory. Because some students will likely exhibit some anxiety about this
mode of learning, you might wish to be prepared to hand out detailed assignments at this stage.
7


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