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Collaborative Learning in Course Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  Van Vechten, 1 Collaborative Learning in a Course Simulation: Congress and American Politics Renée Van Vechten, PhD University of Redlands APSA Teaching and Learning Conference February 22-24, 2008 Abstract: While semester-long simulations couple theoretical knowledge with complementary experiential learning, the value of that experience is contingent on sufficient opportunities for problem-solving, conflict resolution, and the development of interpersonal relationships that help reinforce students’ understanding of textbook information. By enlarging the scope of such simulations to include students from other classes – i.e. by linking classes through assignments – opportunities for more “realistic” cross-pressures, socialization, and lessons about democratic governance can be created. In this paper I show how the collaborative learning experience of linking an Introduction to American Politics class to an upper-division U.S. Congress course (organized around a semester-long simulation) provides elements important to student learning that are normally absent from “contained” simulations. From feedback gained from regular course evaluations and a post-semester student focus group, I explore the lessons that “stick” and the usefulness of such collaborative learning. What I find is that the two-way interaction can create a greater sense of accountability, responsibility, and purpose for students in both classes.

Authors: Van Vechten, Renee.
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Van Vechten, 1
Collaborative Learning in a Course Simulation:
Congress and American Politics
Renée Van Vechten, PhD
University of Redlands
APSA Teaching and Learning Conference
February 22-24, 2008
Abstract:
While semester-long simulations couple theoretical knowledge with complementary
experiential learning, the value of that experience is contingent on sufficient
opportunities for problem-solving, conflict resolution, and the development of
interpersonal relationships that help reinforce students’ understanding of textbook
information. By enlarging the scope of such simulations to include students from other
classes – i.e. by linking classes through assignments – opportunities for more “realistic”
cross-pressures, socialization, and lessons about democratic governance can be created.
In this paper I show how the collaborative learning experience of linking an Introduction
to American Politics class to an upper-division U.S. Congress course (organized around
a semester-long simulation) provides elements important to student learning that are
normally absent from “contained” simulations. From feedback gained from regular
course evaluations and a post-semester student focus group, I explore the lessons that
“stick” and the usefulness of such collaborative learning. What I find is that the two-
way interaction can create a greater sense of accountability, responsibility, and purpose
for students in both classes.


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