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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  11 members to question the groups, 10 minutes for committee members to deliberate in open session and vote on an actual bill, and 15 minutes to discuss the simulation in a wrap-up session. Altogether, the simulation was designed to last 70 minutes, but it ended up taking about 90 minutes from start to finish (excluding the mini-lecture). During the 20-minute preparation period, the witness groups were expected to read detailed and technical testimony from actual interest groups. 3 From this material, they were then expected to summarize the key points in a 2-3 minute policy statement, faithfully representing the position of the person whose role they were playing, without repeating the actual testimony verbatim. They were also required to take a position on the two bills under consideration; in some cases, their position was clear, but in others, the groups had to take their best guess based on their limited knowledge of the role they were playing. In the beginning, I was more than a little concerned that the policy I had selected was far too technical to learn in a span of 20 minutes. During the first 10 minutes, there was absolute silence in the classroom, as the students quickly read through the supporting material they had received. After about 10 minutes, however, the groups began discussing this material with each other, and I made the rounds from one group to the next to answer any questions and to make sure that they understood what they were supposed to do. By the end of the preparatory period, I was quite relieved to see that all of the groups had a good grasp of their basic policy positions and were ready to move to the interaction phase of the simulation. Interaction In the next phase, each group delivered a 2-3 minute statement to the committee, simulating the testimony given in an actual committee hearing. Each group selected one student 3 The first group, members of the Senate subcommittee, used this time to read through the CRS policy backgrounder and the short senator profiles that I provided to each member. They were also encourage to meet within their respective parties to discuss the bill under consideration.

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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members to question the groups, 10 minutes for committee members to deliberate in open
session and vote on an actual bill, and 15 minutes to discuss the simulation in a wrap-up session.
Altogether, the simulation was designed to last 70 minutes, but it ended up taking about 90
minutes from start to finish (excluding the mini-lecture).
During the 20-minute preparation period, the witness groups were expected to read
detailed and technical testimony from actual interest groups.
3
From this material, they were then
expected to summarize the key points in a 2-3 minute policy statement, faithfully representing
the position of the person whose role they were playing, without repeating the actual testimony
verbatim. They were also required to take a position on the two bills under consideration; in
some cases, their position was clear, but in others, the groups had to take their best guess based
on their limited knowledge of the role they were playing. In the beginning, I was more than a
little concerned that the policy I had selected was far too technical to learn in a span of 20
minutes. During the first 10 minutes, there was absolute silence in the classroom, as the students
quickly read through the supporting material they had received. After about 10 minutes,
however, the groups began discussing this material with each other, and I made the rounds from
one group to the next to answer any questions and to make sure that they understood what they
were supposed to do. By the end of the preparatory period, I was quite relieved to see that all of
the groups had a good grasp of their basic policy positions and were ready to move to the
interaction phase of the simulation.
Interaction
In the next phase, each group delivered a 2-3 minute statement to the committee,
simulating the testimony given in an actual committee hearing. Each group selected one student
3
The first group, members of the Senate subcommittee, used this time to read through the CRS policy backgrounder
and the short senator profiles that I provided to each member. They were also encourage to meet within their
respective parties to discuss the bill under consideration.


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