Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 26/11/2014

Devin Ellis joins PAXsims

image001PAXsims is pleased to announce the appointment of Devin Ellis as an associate editor of the website. Devin is a faculty research associate in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, and the Policy & Research Program Director for the ICONS Project – a simulation research and training program in the University’s Center for International Development and Conflict Management. He is an Affiliate Researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), and a member of the CSIS Pacific Forum Young Leaders program. Ellis is a policy analyst by training, specializing in East Asian security issues and crisis management. He has designed or consulted on simulation and gaming projects for USAID, the World Bank, DHS, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution, CSIS, the Office of Personnel Management, NDU, START, the Kennedy School of Government, the Fletcher School of Diplomacy, several Fortune 100 corporations, and various parts of DOD including the Joint Staff, OSD, and PACOM. He has previously contributed to PAXsims.

Simulation articles in International Studies Perspectives (November 2014)


The latest issue of International Studies Perspectives 15, 4 (November 2014) has a large number of articles on simulation and serious gaming in international relations and political science. Several of these have previously been noted on PAXsims when they first appeared in “early view”.

Simulation Games in Teaching International Relations: Insights from a Multi-Day, Multi-Stage, Multi-Issue Simulation on Cyprus
  • Emre Hatipoglu, Meltem Müftüler-Baç and Teri Murphy

Simulating the European Union: Reflections on Module Design

  • Anwen Elias

Teaching Diplomacy by Other Means: Using an Outside-of-Class Simulation to Teach International Relations Theory

  • Dave Bridge and Simon Radford

National Security Council: Simulating Decision-making Dilemmas in Real Time

  • Jonathan M. DiCicco

The Drama of International Relations: A South China Sea Simulation

  • Tanya Kempston and Nicholas Thomas

The Dalig and Vadan Exercise: Teaching Students about Strategy and the Challenges of Friction and Fog

  • Victor Asal, Lewis Griffith and Marcus Schulzke

Assessing the Impact of Role Play Simulations on Learning in Canadian and US Classrooms

  • Mary Pettenger, Douglas West and Niki Young

Learning about Conflict and Negotiations through Computer Simulations: The Case of PeaceMaker

  • Esra Cuhadar and Ronit Kampf

Stimulating Learning by Simulating Politics: Teaching Simulation Design in the Undergraduate Context

  • Sara M. Glasgow

Virtual Worlds Can Be Dangerous: Using Ready-Made Computer Simulations for Teaching International Relations

  • Gustavo Carvalho

Misusing Virtual Worlds Can Be Dangerous: A Response to Carvalho

  • Jonathan W. Keller

Rejoinder to “Misusing Virtual Worlds Can Be Dangerous: A Response to Carvalho”

  • Gustavo Carvalho

Ellie Bartels joins PAXsims

bartelsPAXsims is pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth “Ellie” Bartels as an associate editor of the website. Ellie is Senior Associate at Caerus Associates focused on leveraging social science methodologies to improve wargaming and national security analysis. Prior to joining Caerus, Ellie led teams to design educational and analytical strategic wargames at the National Defense University. She specializes in games to improve participants’ understanding of strategy in irregular and asymmetric warfare environments, and their effects on populations. She has previously contributed to PAXsims.

Ellie can be followed on Twitter at @elliebartels.

Brynania in the news


The McGill Tribune recently published an article by Caity Hui on innovative teaching techniques at McGill University. Among the examples profiled is my own peacebuilding simulation in POLI 450/650:

…New developments impacting departments and faculties at McGill continue to push the boundaries of teaching and learning. From peace negotiation simulations to crowdsourcing science, these initiatives are not only enhancing students’ learning experiences, but also generating a host of novel ideas and involvement outside the classroom.

Political science Professor Rex Brynen, for instance, has been pioneering a unique approach to teaching peace-building in his course POLI 450. Popularly known as “Sim Week,” the students within the course are exposed to a weeklong civil war simulation within the fictitious land of Brynania. The students take on various roles to explore issues from the civil war associated with peace building.

“The challenge of the simulation is to negotiate and implement a peace agreement without it all falling apart,” Brynen explained. “It’s very intense, in semi-real time, taking place both face-to-face and electronically—by email, chat, or Skype.”

Initially designed for a class of 25 students, Brynen’s simulation has expanded over the years to encompass around 100 undergraduates. While other courses at McGill run simulation negotiations, this weeklong event takes on a significantly larger scale than any other class at the university.

“The class generates up to 15,000 emails during the simulation—all of which I have to read,” said Brynen. “Most students become very engaged with it.”

Beyond breaking up the monotony of a lecture-based course, the purpose of Sim Week is to provide students with the opportunity to apply their skills acquired in the class to a real-life situation. Brynen explained that for students working in areas like international development or conflict resolution, it is particularly important to have an experiential component integrated into students’ education, whether in the form of internships, field study, or—in the case of POLI 450—simulations.

“One of the challenges in teaching this topic is that it is very easy to read stuff on how you are supposed to negotiate peace agreements,” Brynen said. “In practice, however, it is highly complex and dynamic, characterized by mixed motives, imperfect information, and many second and third order effects.”

Brynen emphasized that while lectures provide students with the knowledge and foundations to develop peace-building policies, these more passive learning styles do not recreate the complexities that occur in a realistic experience.

“Lectures and text are great and wonderful things,” Brynen said, “But the simulation is really designed to bring home the stuff that lectures don’t bring home well.”

The majority of comments each year following Sim Week echo Brynen’s observations.

“You do so much theorizing and writing [in the course],” said Jake Heller to Tv McGill, a participant in the 2010 rendition of the simulation. “It was really refreshing to sit down at the table with someone and negotiate and apply a lot of the things that I have learned in some of the classes.”

Despite the advantages of this new resource as a teaching tool, Brynen cautions that simulation-based learning is not a one-size-fits-all paradigm. Depending on the course, lectures provide opportunities for professors to quickly cover large volumes of information in a logical fashion.

“It would be challenging to run a simulation for a class of 600 students,” Brynen said. “[POLI 450] has a lot of games because the course focuses on a lot of operational issues, and games give an experiential sense of those. Conversely, my Middle East politics class has no games in it and I don’t plan on introducing them because the lectures serve better at covering the material.”

While POLI 450’s simulation stands as a novel learning tool within the McGill community, teaching styles across faculties are paralleling this cross training through various other avenues….

You’ll find the full article here.

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