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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  8 perspectives, considering the ways in which their multiple positions within the organization might conflict with each other. And even in situations where students haven’t prepared well, there are numerous opportunities in interacting with other simulation actors for students to learn about the ways in which multiple roles can come into play in a particular institution. Finally, roles can liberate shy students to take a more active role in simulations than they might otherwise do in more traditional class settings. I’ll never forget one particularly shy student who came out of her shell when asked to play a lawyer in a Supreme Court simulation I designed. Something about the act of playing a particular role helped her shed her fears of speaking in class, and from that day forward, she no longer had any qualms about participating actively in discussions. In sum, when designed properly, role-playing simulations can be an effective pedagogical technique for teaching students about the dynamic interaction between political actors and the internal rules and processes of political institutions. The role-playing aspect forces students to get into the heads of political actors and to consider why these actors make the decisions they do, given the structure of institutional incentives and constraints in which they operate. The simulation aspect forces students to engage in an actual decision-making process and to consider why the process works or fails to work as it does. Short of actually working in a political institution, role-playing simulations provide the best means by which students can learn about the complex inner workings of these organizations that are so central to the American political system. CASE STUDIES: TWO CONGRESSIONAL SIMULATIONS In this section, I discuss two congressional simulations that I designed and implemented. Although both simulations highlighted important aspects of the policy process, they were not about the policy process per se, but about the nature of Congress as an institution and the part it

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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perspectives, considering the ways in which their multiple positions within the organization
might conflict with each other. And even in situations where students haven’t prepared well,
there are numerous opportunities in interacting with other simulation actors for students to learn
about the ways in which multiple roles can come into play in a particular institution. Finally,
roles can liberate shy students to take a more active role in simulations than they might otherwise
do in more traditional class settings. I’ll never forget one particularly shy student who came out
of her shell when asked to play a lawyer in a Supreme Court simulation I designed. Something
about the act of playing a particular role helped her shed her fears of speaking in class, and from
that day forward, she no longer had any qualms about participating actively in discussions.
In sum, when designed properly, role-playing simulations can be an effective pedagogical
technique for teaching students about the dynamic interaction between political actors and the
internal rules and processes of political institutions. The role-playing aspect forces students to
get into the heads of political actors and to consider why these actors make the decisions they do,
given the structure of institutional incentives and constraints in which they operate. The
simulation aspect forces students to engage in an actual decision-making process and to consider
why the process works or fails to work as it does. Short of actually working in a political
institution, role-playing simulations provide the best means by which students can learn about
the complex inner workings of these organizations that are so central to the American political
system.
CASE STUDIES: TWO CONGRESSIONAL SIMULATIONS
In this section, I discuss two congressional simulations that I designed and implemented.
Although both simulations highlighted important aspects of the policy process, they were not
about the policy process per se, but about the nature of Congress as an institution and the part it


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