A while back I put out a plea for new simulations for my Introduction to International Politics class. I asked specifically about the Council on Foreign Relations’ Model Diplomacy simulations and got some useful feedback (on that and others). In case others are interested, I figured I’d post a follow up.
I decided to structure my course around two sets of simulations. First, I planned on a series of four different one-day Model Diplomacy simulations, at key times during the term. I replaced my group debate assignment with these. Since I centered the group debate assignment around current events as a way of applying course material to a contemporary question, the Model Diplomacy simulations were a reasonable replacement since they, too, focus on a current event.
Yet, I was still worried about the US foreign policy-focus of the Model Diplomacy simulations, so I decided to end the term with the Nations simulation (suggested by a helpful commenter on my initial post).
A few comments on my first experience with the Model Diplomacy simulation:
- The prep work required of the students is more intensive than many other simulations I’ve done. And I didn’t do my homework before including four in my syllabus. I cut down on my initial plan of four to only two this term. We ran the North Korean Nuclear Threat simulation a few weeks ago and will run the Global Climate Change simulation on Tuesday.
- There are a few options on managing roles. I had exactly twice as many students as roles
suggested by CFR. My solution was to have students work in pairs, with one taking the lead on each simulation. In other words, student A took the lead on the North Korean Nuclear Threat, while student B took a supporting role. Then, for the Climate Change simulation, they will reverse roles. The “lead” student wrote the memos and acted in the role during the simulation, while the “supporting” student (or Deputy) took notes and could pass notes and suggestions to the lead student. The simulation materials also suggest having students work in groups or creating “General Advisor” roles as alternative ways to manage role assignment. For my group, this method of working in pairs worked well.
- As far as the simulation content itself, I was impressed with the materials the Council on Foreign Relations provides for the simulation, the resources (including grading rubrics) for the instructor, and the overall set-up. I felt the students learned a lot about the case, while the simulation itself provided an opportunity for some important skill-building. The day of the simulation ran smoothly, with me mostly taking a back seat while the National Security Advisor ran the meeting. My main role was to interject occasionally with a new aspect crisis to shake things up. And all at zero cost – a big bonus!
As far as using it in Introduction to International Relations class, I found the simulation to illustrate a number of course materials in an effective and engaging way. That said, I am happy that I decided to include a more “IR-like” simulation to complement the US-centric nature of the Model Diplomacy simulations. The Nations simulation will run in a couple of weeks – I’ll report back.