Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 30/04/2015

Recent simulation articles in PS: Political Science & Politics


The latest issue of PS: Political Science  & Politics 48, 2 (April 2015) includes four articles on the use of political simulations in the classroom:

The Dictatorship Game: Simulating a Transition to Democracy

  • Luis F. Jiménez, University of Massachusetts, Boston

A central topic in the comparative-politics subdiscipline is the study of democratic transitions. Despite a growing role-playing literature, there are currently no simulations that illustrate the dynamics of democratic transitions. This article proposes a role-playing simulation that demonstrates to students why it is difficult for countries to transition to democracy and why protests are a necessary but not sufficient condition to topple a dictatorship. As surveys and teaching evaluations subsequently showed, this exercise succeeded in clarifying the more difficult theoretical concepts as well as in making a potentially dry subject more accessible.

Teaching with SimCity: Using Sophisticated Gaming Simulations to Teach Concepts in Introductory American Government

  • Matthew Woessner, Pennsylvania State University

One of the key challenges of teaching a college survey course such as introductory American government is the lack of interest on the part of students, many of whom take the course to satisfy a general-education requirement. Recognizing that young people are fascinated by video games, the author devised a governance simulation built on the popular computer game SimCity. Although the video-game industry designed these sophisticated simulations to be played by a single participant rather than a large group, the author created a simple set of rules that allows students to run them collectively. This article examines five factors for which an instructor must account if games such as SimCity are to have educational value. The author argues that, if conducted properly, this type of in-class exercise provides a fun and interesting way to teach students about the inherent challenges of governing in a democracy.

Teaching Globalization and Development through a Simulation

  • Kevin Pallister, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

This article describes a simulation designed to teach students about the interests and interactions involved in the international political economy of development. The design and implementation of the simulation are discussed and sample simulation instructions for students are included.

Political Theory Simulations in the Classroom: Simulating John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government

  • Derek Glasgow, University of Kansas

Political scientists frequently use in-class simulations as teaching tools. However, few such exercises have been developed to assist in teaching pre-modern political theories. This is unfortunate because simulations effectively promote active learning and excite students about course material. This article develops a new simulation to teach Locke’s Second Treatise of Government in an introductory general education or political science course. Surveys of participants indicate that the Locke simulation promotes active learning, as well as understanding of course concepts, teamwork, and interest in the material.

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