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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 However, I tell them they will be getting specific assignment sheets with all the details as needed and I use this time to reinforce to them that they will not know everything that is going to happen during the simulation and that I do not want them to, but they will know whatever they need to know in plenty of time to prepare for it. I find if I hand out detailed assignment sheets too early the more anxious student can now worry about the exact interpretations of these details. Reassurance that there is nothing to worry about seems to work better. I tell them they will just have to trust that it will be an interesting experience. And it will not be happening for a couple of months, so let us just relax and begin the course… 2. Pick the Policy Issue or Problem Depending on your own comfort level with preparation versus ad hoc course development, you may wish to decide which policy issue will be used in the simulation or you may leave this up to the students. If you do the latter, however, you may still wish to provide a list from which students can pick because some policy cases work better at bringing out the secondary dynamics of the simulation, that is, the process and procedure dynamics over and above the content dynamics or policy outcome. If you wish to expose the students to cross-government or cross-party tensions, your policy case needs to be one where these dynamics are highlighted, for example, in a recent policy fight between the two levels of government or between left and right parties. Plus you may wish to bring both domestic and international elements into the simulation even though you will not be using international actors per se. For example, domestic policy on the environment will necessarily involve international actions and perspectives which the student can bring out in her or his research and simulation arguments. The same is true if you wish to emphasize management issues. In this case the policy you pick or the list from which you allow the students to choose needs to play out these dynamics. You need a case such as Health Care where there are some serious tensions and disagreements over policy management, implementation and/or evaluation. With regard to the balance between the instructor’s role and the student’s role with regard to the policy choice, I have discovered too that it is best to balance instructor’s control and student choice. Once the students are pointed in the right direction, for example with a list of appropriate policy cases, they are likely to be more interested if they have some choice in the selection process. 3. Things to Do During the Regular Course Lectures As with any course assignments, the quality of the simulation is enhanced by the production of clear directions for the assignments. I give these out in sequence over the course with at least three week’s notice, with the exception of the final report which I explain to students I do not give out in detail until the day of the simulation (see below). Depending on my student body, I find it useful to give research tips, preferably by bringing up the actual websites, on how to find government documents such as Supreme Court decisions and legislative and committee records which students do not always know how to find but which they may find useful in the simulation. I also demonstrate to them that you do not need to be a legal expert to garner some 8

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
However, I tell them they will be getting specific assignment sheets with all the details as needed
and I use this time to reinforce to them that they will not know everything that is going to happen
during the simulation and that I do not want them to, but they will know whatever they need to
know in plenty of time to prepare for it. I find if I hand out detailed assignment sheets too early
the more anxious student can now worry about the exact interpretations of these details.
Reassurance that there is nothing to worry about seems to work better. I tell them they will just
have to trust that it will be an interesting experience. And it will not be happening for a couple of
months, so let us just relax and begin the course…
2.
Pick the Policy Issue or Problem
Depending on your own comfort level with preparation versus ad hoc course development, you
may wish to decide which policy issue will be used in the simulation or you may leave this up to
the students. If you do the latter, however, you may still wish to provide a list from which
students can pick because some policy cases work better at bringing out the secondary dynamics
of the simulation, that is, the process and procedure dynamics over and above the content
dynamics or policy outcome. If you wish to expose the students to cross-government or cross-
party tensions, your policy case needs to be one where these dynamics are highlighted, for
example, in a recent policy fight between the two levels of government or between left and right
parties. Plus you may wish to bring both domestic and international elements into the simulation
even though you will not be using international actors per se. For example, domestic policy on
the environment will necessarily involve international actions and perspectives which the student
can bring out in her or his research and simulation arguments. The same is true if you wish to
emphasize management issues. In this case the policy you pick or the list from which you allow
the students to choose needs to play out these dynamics. You need a case such as Health Care
where there are some serious tensions and disagreements over policy management,
implementation and/or evaluation. With regard to the balance between the instructor’s role and
the student’s role with regard to the policy choice, I have discovered too that it is best to balance
instructor’s control and student choice. Once the students are pointed in the right direction, for
example with a list of appropriate policy cases, they are likely to be more interested if they have
some choice in the selection process.
3. Things to Do During the Regular Course Lectures
As with any course assignments, the quality of the simulation is enhanced by the production of
clear directions for the assignments. I give these out in sequence over the course with at least
three week’s notice, with the exception of the final report which I explain to students I do not
give out in detail until the day of the simulation (see below). Depending on my student body, I
find it useful to give research tips, preferably by bringing up the actual websites, on how to find
government documents such as Supreme Court decisions and legislative and committee records
which students do not always know how to find but which they may find useful in the
simulation. I also demonstrate to them that you do not need to be a legal expert to garner some
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