Making Students Make: Classroom Game Design Part 3

As promised, here is information about the final exam I have created for my first-year seminar. As I mentioned in my previous two posts in this series, my goal is to make students more aware of what is now often referred to as “design thinking”: in this course, they are not just learning how to build games, but to solve problems.

Instructions for the exam:

Write an essay that compares one of the games that you helped design and one of the games that you played in this course. Identify which game was better by analyzing how well the games:

  • Incorporated the principles of the “golden rule” and “magic circle” in relation to events in the real world.
  • Utilized elements of conflict and cooperation.
  • Had clear written and unwritten rules.
  • Facilitated meaningful decision making.

Use information from assigned course readings to support your argument. Be sure to include references to your sources in your essay to avoid plagiarism – this applies whether you are using direct quotations or just the ideas of another author. Use parenthetical in-text citations as with reading responses to save space. An essay with few or no relevant references to the course readings will suffer a reduction in grade.

  • The essay should be double-spaced, in 11 or 12 point font, and the equivalent of 3-4 pages long.
  • There is no need for a separate bibliography or title page; please do not include them.
  • Work independently; do not discuss your essay with other students.

A screenshot of the rubric I’ll be using to grade the exams is below. As I mentioned about the game design beta test rubric, I am not really concerned with the exam scores generated by the rubric — my primary goal is getting students to become more aware of how their experiences translate into learning.

Making Students Make: Classroom Game Design Part 2

This is the second post on my process for game design by students. The first post, where I mention changing the beta test rubrics with which teams of students evaluate each other’s games, is here. The rubric originally looked like this:

Ok, but not great.

My new rubric more clearly references the principles discussed by Tomer Perry in his series on game design:

What is most important here is not the rubric’s criteria or point values, but the fact that it will be used by students rather than the instructor. The purpose of the rubric is to get students to benchmark the quality of their effort against that of their peers, and possibly make them into more autonomous learners in the process.

Two Online Games From The New York Times

Last month The New York Times published an updated version of its confirmation bias game that might be useful for teaching research methods or political psychology. The newer version includes an explanation of how confirmation bias affects government policy.
Also of note is another game on President Trump’s plan for changing U.S. immigration criteria. I failed to qualify under these new proposed rules. Probably all of my students will fail also.

Making Students Make: Classroom Game Design Part 1

credit: Chad Raymond

In my 2016 first-year seminar, I had teams of students build games, something that originated with a vaguely-defined classroom exercise that I had created on the spur of the moment in class the year before. I’m going to include game design in the course again this fall, but with a few tweaks. Here is an overview of what’s going to happen:

Teams of students will go through three iterations of game design. An individually-written policy memo serves as a preparatory assignment for each round. The respective contexts of the games are the flight of a refugee from a location in South Sudan, the construction and operation of an NGO-managed camp for Rohingya refugees who have fled to Thailand, and the resettlement of a group of Afghan refugees in a relatively small community in the USA. Complete instructions for all of these game design exercises are at TeachersPayTeachers. Teams design their games in class over a few days and then they beta test each other’s games, evaluating them against a rubric. Points from the rubric get added to each student’s grade. Continue reading

JPSE Special Issue – Call for Submissions

The editors of the Journal of Political Science Education invite submissions for a special issue dedicated the use of simulations and games in teaching political science. Submissions can be systematic studies (quantitative or qualitative) on the pedagogical use of simulations and games, narrative descriptions of simulations and games that authors have created for use in their own classrooms, or reflective essays on the opportunities, accomplishments, and/or challenges inherent in incorporating this type of active learning methodology into one’s teaching. The deadline for submitting a manuscript for the special issue is 1 February 2018. Full information on submitting to JSPE is here. The editors also welcome submissions on other topics related to the teaching of political science, broadly construed, for inclusion in regular issues of the journal.

APSA Teaching Workshop – Call for Proposals

The APSA Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs will host a two-day, teaching-oriented workshop for faculty in the field of international relations. The workshop is scheduled for October 20-21 and will be led by Joyce Kaufman (Whittier College) and Victor Asal (University at Albany – SUNY). A full description of the workshop and link to submit a proposal is here.

Please note that the deadline for submitting a proposal is August 6.

New Gerkhania Simulation

A slightly delayed report on the latest version of my Gerkhania simulation, which I abandoned back in 2015 because it wasn’t living up to expectations. Last January I wrote a brief preview about changes I had made to it before the start of my spring semester comparative politics course.

Gerkhania now has three rounds of role play: a commission to establish a representative legislature, one legislative session in which students can earn points if certain bills are passed, and a third session with no point rewards. For each session, students randomly receive a short biographical profile with an ethno-religious identity. Because of the laws of probability most students will receive a different role each time. The roles also include objectives that students should try to pursue; the objective of one student conflicts with the objectives of most of the other students.

In the first session, the class almost agreed to three separate electoral districts before settling on a single, national district to elect members of a parliament. In the debate, students quickly affiliated with each other on the basis of their newly-assigned identities. The same behavior occurred in the other two sessions, even though students had different identities . Students spontaneously changed seats to sit next to those who had the same ethnicity. They tried to maximize their own group’s influence and marginalize the influence of others. Some students tried to simultaneously engage in logrolling across ethnic boundaries to achieve their individual objectives.

In the post-simulation debriefing, I highlighted two topics. First, the results of both legislative sessions, in terms of passage or failure of the bills I supplied, were nearly identical — despite the existence of a zero-sum environment for earning individual rewards in the first session but not the second. I asked students whether this outcome could be explained by rational actor theory.

Second, I tried to get students to think about the immediacy and fervor with which they adopted rapidly changing and completely arbitrary identities. I say “tried” because I don’t think I was able to get students to adequately connect their behavior during the simulation to concepts like identity salience, deindividuation, and culture. But obviously identity had a much larger effect than it did in my South China Sea simulation, which is what I had intended. So I rate this activity as a success.

All materials needed to run New Gerkhania are available through my TeachersPayTeachers storefront.