This week, I got the happy news that my paper has been accepted for the APSA Teaching & Learning conference in Long Beach, California, in February. Obviously, it will take some time to come to terms with having to fly to somewhere hotter than Britain in the winter, but I’m pretty confident I’ll manage.

Obviously, my main priority at the conference will be to touch base with the other contributors to this blog (itself the product of the same conference in 2011 in Albuquerque (which I still can’t spell)). Central to that discussion will be my recent work on developing resources for those teaching through simulations and negotiations.

As I’ve discussed here before, there has been a lack of practical guides to running simulations: my own resource has been a partial attempt to address this, although it still needs much more work to make it fully useful.

However, my paper to the conference will touch on another issue, namely the structural difficulty of creating resources for simulations, to which I’d like to speak for a bit.

The nature of simulations is that they are highly adaptable and flexible; indeed, that’s one of the main attractions. However, the pay-off of this is that templates or ‘stock’ scenarios tend to be of very limited use, since they will almost certainly fail to address some basic requirement for a particular user, but that in terms of time, space, size, evaluation, etc.

Even the attempt that I have made on my website to sidestep this, by getting people to think in terms of design principles, does not fully address the problem. Instead, it creates a new issue, namely of how to operationalise those principles.

Part of the solution must lie in a combination of the two approaches, but even this isn’t completely satisfactory. My impression is that the single most useful support for simulations remains one-to-one support and guidance.

Is it possible to turn that support into some kind of decision-tree of questions? It’s a thought that has only just struck me, but maybe it has some value, especially if it could be tied to a database of stock scenarios.

One for me to think on further: maybe Long Beach will help my thoughts crystallise some more.

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