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Reacting to the Past: Extended Simulations and the Learning Experience in Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  After the games were completed, the final section of the course involved a three week ex- amination of Iraq. The students read Nir Rosen’s (2005) In the Belly of the Green Bird as the main text and were responsible for readings from additional on-line sites. A final 5 - 6 page paper including an annotated bibliography on Iraq was also assigned. While this part of the course also used a lecture and discussion format, the game experience bled over into the final classes in un- expected ways. One of the discussions involved parts of the class answering questions about Iraq from the perspective of various American and Iraqi characters in Rosen’s book. When the stu- dents realized that they had been divided into Iraqi and American factions, they turned the class into a shortened game! They assigned roles within the factions and came up with some basic rules for debate. I abandoned my original lesson plan quickly and reverted to being a gamemas- ter. I have seldom been so gratified in a classroom. Evaluation of the Course Formal evaluation of the course was done using an in-house survey devised to test how well the freshmen seminars were achieving their pedagogical goals. This survey included 40 questions intended to capture student assessments of the freshman seminar in several categories: empathy, community involvement, critical thinking, cooperation and active learning, and others. Re- sponses were given on four point scales ranging from either “Never” to “Very Often” or from “Very little” to “Very much”. Following Smith and Boyer (1996), I hypothesized that a course based on Reacting games would lead to a variety of outcomes. First, I thought that since the students would have to return to their basic readings frequently to write their papers and make presentations, as well as to face criticism in floor debates, a course based on the games would lead to differences in their level of 11

Authors: Lightcap, Tracy.
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After the games were completed, the final section of the course involved a three week ex-
amination of Iraq. The students read Nir Rosen’s (2005) In the Belly of the Green Bird as the
main text and were responsible for readings from additional on-line sites. A final 5 - 6 page paper
including an annotated bibliography on Iraq was also assigned. While this part of the course also
used a lecture and discussion format, the game experience bled over into the final classes in un-
expected ways. One of the discussions involved parts of the class answering questions about Iraq
from the perspective of various American and Iraqi characters in Rosen’s book. When the stu-
dents realized that they had been divided into Iraqi and American factions, they turned the class
into a shortened game! They assigned roles within the factions and came up with some basic
rules for debate. I abandoned my original lesson plan quickly and reverted to being a gamemas-
ter. I have seldom been so gratified in a classroom.
Evaluation of the Course
Formal evaluation of the course was done using an in-house survey devised to test how well
the freshmen seminars were achieving their pedagogical goals. This survey included 40 questions
intended to capture student assessments of the freshman seminar in several categories: empathy,
community involvement, critical thinking, cooperation and active learning, and others. Re-
sponses were given on four point scales ranging from either “Never” to “Very Often” or from
“Very little” to “Very much”.
Following Smith and Boyer (1996), I hypothesized that a course based on Reacting games
would lead to a variety of outcomes. First, I thought that since the students would have to return
to their basic readings frequently to write their papers and make presentations, as well as to face
criticism in floor debates, a course based on the games would lead to differences in their level of
11


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