An Experiment in Teaching International Relations: The Effects of a World War I Role-Playing Simulation on Student Performance
20 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2010
Traditional pedagogical techniques – lectures, readings, and discussion of historical case studies – often lead students to conclude that history is predetermined by processes over which individuals have little control. These teaching methods also force students to passively receive information before they get the opportunity to apply it – a delay that probably diminishes the information’s relevance to students when they attempt to understand the causes of international conflict.
In the Fall 2009 semester, I used a self-designed role-playing simulation of World War I (“Europe 1914”) in an introductory international relations course. The instrumental function of simulation in relation to course content was to demonstrate to students the importance and immediacy of individual decision making in historical events – specifically, that playing the roles of various heads of state would illustrate the political and ethical consequences of actions taken by European leaders on the eve of World War I. Each student had particular objectives to attain as the simulation unfolded. Students were also assigned the tasks of collaboratively preparing writing assignments online using a blog and making speeches in class while in character. In this paper, I assess whether the simulation succeeded as a cooperative learning exercise and compare student performance from this class to that of another class on the same topic that did not participate in the Europe 1914 simulation.
Keywords: international relations, simulation, role-play, teaching, Europe, performance
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