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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  27 The senate simulation was probably my favorite of the three…It was funny watching which personalities were the most forward in their beliefs and seeing who took charge of their party. I had the opportunity to go around and try and persuade some of the moderate voters to side with the democrats…and a republican and I got in a little fake confrontation about swaying one of their Senators. That was interesting to see, although I imagine it’s much less congenial in the actual political setting. 1) Details of issue do not necessarily have to be debated at length 2) bargaining, compromising, and other strategies seemed to be the main activity rather than debating 3) senators have different personal goals and incentives that influence their stance on the issue. I remember that people would vote against bills simply because it was proposed by another party. Also, that each party presented extreme bills, knowing full well that the other party would vote it down and that it would make them look bad if they did. Even in the short amount of time we did the simulation, I remember getting VERY frustrated because people not voting logically, but on party lines instead. Of the 11 students who provided substantive answers, only four went on to become political science majors, while six did not major in political science. 11 Of the three who could not remember the simulation, one was not present in class that day, and two went on to become political science majors. Finally, of the six non-political science majors in the survey, none of these students has taken more than one political science class at Berkeley. I raise these statistics simply to note that even for students for whom political science has not been a major focus in college, the simulation seems to have had a lasting impact on their understanding of the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, I did not have enough subjects in my sample to perform a regression analysis, so these data are only suggestive, at best, of the usefulness of this simulation. GENERAL SURVEY RESULTS As discussed above, I conducted a short online survey of my former students to assess not only their experience in the specific simulations described above, but also their general impressions about the effectiveness of role-playing simulations. Of the 52 students invited to participate in the study, 27 students completed the survey, a response rate of 52 percent. 11 One student chose not to answer.

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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27
The senate simulation was probably my favorite of the three…It was funny watching
which personalities were the most forward in their beliefs and seeing who took charge of
their party. I had the opportunity to go around and try and persuade some of the
moderate voters to side with the democrats…and a republican and I got in a little fake
confrontation about swaying one of their Senators. That was interesting to see, although I
imagine it’s much less congenial in the actual political setting.

1) Details of issue do not necessarily have to be debated at length 2) bargaining,
compromising, and other strategies seemed to be the main activity rather than debating 3)
senators have different personal goals and incentives that influence their stance on the
issue.

I remember that people would vote against bills simply because it was proposed by
another party. Also, that each party presented extreme bills, knowing full well that the
other party would vote it down and that it would make them look bad if they did. Even in
the short amount of time we did the simulation, I remember getting VERY frustrated
because people not voting logically, but on party lines instead.
Of the 11 students who provided substantive answers, only four went on to become
political science majors, while six did not major in political science.
11
Of the three who could
not remember the simulation, one was not present in class that day, and two went on to become
political science majors. Finally, of the six non-political science majors in the survey, none of
these students has taken more than one political science class at Berkeley. I raise these statistics
simply to note that even for students for whom political science has not been a major focus in
college, the simulation seems to have had a lasting impact on their understanding of the U.S.
Senate. Unfortunately, I did not have enough subjects in my sample to perform a regression
analysis, so these data are only suggestive, at best, of the usefulness of this simulation.
GENERAL SURVEY RESULTS
As discussed above, I conducted a short online survey of my former students to assess not
only their experience in the specific simulations described above, but also their general
impressions about the effectiveness of role-playing simulations. Of the 52 students invited to
participate in the study, 27 students completed the survey, a response rate of 52 percent.
11
One student chose not to answer.


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