Simulations in teaching EU foreign policy – how and where to get started?

Simulations and role play are very often praised for an excellent active learning tool in teaching International Relations and foreign affairs. And increasingly there are resources published that aim to facilitate the use of innovative teaching tools:

When one talks with colleagues about simulations as active learning tool, enthusiasm prevails. Simulations are fun. Students like them. And indeed: students and academics often report enthusiastically about well-run simulations. Unfortunately, sharing is less open and honest in discussing failed attempts and the type/amount of preparatory work that goes into a simulation.

This year the topic for our 2nd Jean Monnet Network teaching workshop, 16-17 November 2016 at LSE, is about the use of simulations and role play in teaching EU foreign affairs. During four sessions spread over two days we aim to strengthen our understanding for how simulations and role plays can be designed and integrated in different ways of teaching.

We identified following key questions that we aim to address during the two days of our teaching workshop:

  1. What different objectives can one aim for with a simulation, i.e. what makes a “good” simulation? What different types of simulations can we distinguish?
  2. How does the choice of objective influence the design of our simulation? What aspects do we need to decide upon when planning a simulation?
  3.  How can technology be used within a simulation?
  4.  What different types of assessment are possible when using simulations, and which ones work best under what conditions?

We are very pleased that in learning more about what decisions to consider in designing and using a simulation we can draw also on the input from three guest speakers and leading experts on simulations as teaching tool:

Simon Usherwood from the University of Surrey published widely on the use of different types of games and simulations in European Studies. See for example:

Francesco Marchi from the ECCSA Business School in Paris is Programme Director of “Negotiators in Europe” at the Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation (IRENE).

Jon Worth is a Berlin-based blogger on EU politics and consultant. As visiting professor he contributed to the EU simulation run at the College of Europe, among other things with his design of a special twitter that is used by students during their simulation.

Facilitating the learning and reflection on teaching innovation generally works best in a hands-on experimental manner: our participants bring a wealth of experience from different higher education contexts, and we want to use this wealth of expertise and put people actively to work: right at the start of our teaching workshop we are going to form inter-university teams.

Each team is going to work on the design outline of their simulation after the various inputs from our guest speakers. Team members this way can exchange their ideas and apply the gained knowledge in constructing their simulation template. A simple worksheet is guiding each team throught the process of simulation design (see template for worksheet here). Ideally, each team throughout the workshops adds step by step to their own simulation.

The results of this group work activity are going to be shared on the ANTERO website in due course – so ideas of how we can answer our questions posted above will follow soon.