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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  18 Also during the class preceding the simulation, I allowed students the opportunity to pick the issue they wanted to debate. After a brainstorming session, the class voted overwhelmingly to consider the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In order to lend realism to the debate, I selected three real-world pieces of legislation that best presented the range of options available to senators at the time. The legislation was presented to the class as an underlying bill with two potential amendments. Several days before the simulation, I posted several pieces of information to our course website (see Appendix 2): (1) a lengthy packet of simulation instructions; (2) a list of roles and their assignments; (3) copies of all three bills; (4) a Congressional Research Service Report on Iraq-related legislation; and (5) National Journal profiles of each senator in the simulation. Students were expected to read as much of this material as possible before coming to class, and the leadership was expected to meet with me as a group the day before the simulation to ensure that everyone understood their role and the rules of the simulation. On the day of the simulation, I opened class with a 10-minute lecture on the structure of Congress and a refresher on how a bill becomes a law. The purpose of this lecture was to place the simulation in a larger context. Thus, I explained the key differences between the House and Senate, so that students would not get the mistaken impression that the Senate simulation was representative of both chambers of Congress. I also discussed the role of parties and committees in the legislative process, and I provided a short tutorial on Senate legislative procedure involving bills and amendments. Following this short lecture, I explicitly told students that the simulation was intended to be a lesson in coordination, and I asked them to be attentive to the ways in which institutions can help overcome the collective action problem within Congress. I

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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18
Also during the class preceding the simulation, I allowed students the opportunity to pick
the issue they wanted to debate. After a brainstorming session, the class voted overwhelmingly
to consider the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In order to lend realism to the debate, I
selected three real-world pieces of legislation that best presented the range of options available to
senators at the time. The legislation was presented to the class as an underlying bill with two
potential amendments.
Several days before the simulation, I posted several pieces of information to our course
website (see Appendix 2): (1) a lengthy packet of simulation instructions; (2) a list of roles and
their assignments; (3) copies of all three bills; (4) a Congressional Research Service Report on
Iraq-related legislation; and (5) National Journal profiles of each senator in the simulation.
Students were expected to read as much of this material as possible before coming to class, and
the leadership was expected to meet with me as a group the day before the simulation to ensure
that everyone understood their role and the rules of the simulation.
On the day of the simulation, I opened class with a 10-minute lecture on the structure of
Congress and a refresher on how a bill becomes a law. The purpose of this lecture was to place
the simulation in a larger context. Thus, I explained the key differences between the House and
Senate, so that students would not get the mistaken impression that the Senate simulation was
representative of both chambers of Congress. I also discussed the role of parties and committees
in the legislative process, and I provided a short tutorial on Senate legislative procedure
involving bills and amendments. Following this short lecture, I explicitly told students that the
simulation was intended to be a lesson in coordination, and I asked them to be attentive to the
ways in which institutions can help overcome the collective action problem within Congress. I


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