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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  3 involves handling and touching; and (4) kinesthetic learning entails moving, doing, and experiencing (Kinsella 1995, 225). The four perceptual learning channels, in turn, produce four distinct learning styles: (1) visual/verbal, (2) visual/nonverbal, (3) auditory, and (4) tactile- kinesthetic. Of course, these styles are ideal types: just because a student favors one learning style over another does not mean that he or she is incapable of learning by other means. Additionally, some students are multimodal learners, which means that they are equally capable of processing and retaining information that is presented in a variety of ways (Davis 2001). As teachers, it is incumbent upon us not only to recognize that students learn in different ways, but also to vary our teaching techniques accordingly. This does not mean that we should get bogged down in trying to accommodate every student’s individual learning style. Rather, teachers should use a variety of techniques to reach the greatest number of students. In my classes, this advice takes two forms. First, I try to speak to different learning styles when covering difficult topics. For example, I try to help visual learners by using the chalkboard as much as possible to translate my spoken lectures or to summarize key points during discussion. Second, I try to vary teaching techniques from one class to the next. For example, some days I prefer a mini-lecture format, combined with full class discussion; other days, I break the class into small groups for more intimate discussion. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to stray from the standard lecture/discussion format because of the sheer amount of material that needs to be covered every week. On some occasions, however, I believe that it is entirely appropriate to set aside the traditional class format and pursue one’s learning objectives through alternative teaching techniques. Role-playing simulations, in particular, are an excellent teaching technique from both a pedagogical and a substantive political science perspective. On the pedagogical side, role-

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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involves handling and touching; and (4) kinesthetic learning entails moving, doing, and
experiencing (Kinsella 1995, 225). The four perceptual learning channels, in turn, produce four
distinct learning styles: (1) visual/verbal, (2) visual/nonverbal, (3) auditory, and (4) tactile-
kinesthetic. Of course, these styles are ideal types: just because a student favors one learning
style over another does not mean that he or she is incapable of learning by other means.
Additionally, some students are multimodal learners, which means that they are equally capable
of processing and retaining information that is presented in a variety of ways (Davis 2001).
As teachers, it is incumbent upon us not only to recognize that students learn in different
ways, but also to vary our teaching techniques accordingly. This does not mean that we should
get bogged down in trying to accommodate every student’s individual learning style. Rather,
teachers should use a variety of techniques to reach the greatest number of students. In my
classes, this advice takes two forms. First, I try to speak to different learning styles when
covering difficult topics. For example, I try to help visual learners by using the chalkboard as
much as possible to translate my spoken lectures or to summarize key points during discussion.
Second, I try to vary teaching techniques from one class to the next. For example, some days I
prefer a mini-lecture format, combined with full class discussion; other days, I break the class
into small groups for more intimate discussion. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to stray from
the standard lecture/discussion format because of the sheer amount of material that needs to be
covered every week. On some occasions, however, I believe that it is entirely appropriate to set
aside the traditional class format and pursue one’s learning objectives through alternative
teaching techniques.
Role-playing simulations, in particular, are an excellent teaching technique from both a
pedagogical and a substantive political science perspective. On the pedagogical side, role-


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