Simon Fink discussed the scalability of an EU simulation in terms of its duration. I’m running into a scale problem in terms the number of participants. For the second year in a row, I’m using Statecraft in an introductory international relations course. Last year I had thirty-four students; this year I have only thirteen. The buzz of activity in this year’s classroom is noticeably less than it was last year; however, last year it was obvious that, with teams of five or six students, often one or two students weren’t very engaged in the proceedings. I have seen this passivity happen in other simulations as well.
This suggests that, absent highly-structured roles for individual team members and a clear system of individually-based rewards and penalties, many simulations probably have a sweet spot for group size — perhaps three students per team. If one student is absent, then there are still two others present to collaborate. If all three are present, the group is still small enough for everyone to want to participate and for no one to be able to hide.
Unfortunately I find it extremely inconvenient to wait until I have a firm idea of class size before deciding whether to use a particular simulation. I also don’t want to build a syllabus around a few simulations and then have to discard them when enrollment goes up or down. This makes a simulation’s scalability in terms of number of participants very important to me.