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Syria Simulation Workshop - 2013 WHAT Conference


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This presentation focused on a pilot-test of a simulation that we are running at St. Edward's University to help students learn about the conflict in Syria. I've been working history faculty members Mity Myhr, Selin Guner, Christopher Mickelwait and Christie Wilson to pull together an experiential workshop for students in Cultural Foundations courses around the topic of the Syria conflict. Our goal for this is to provide an experiential space in which students can learn about the complexities of this conflict by role-playing actors and agencies involved in the conflict. These represent entities such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in addition to countries like Turkey in addition to Iran, Russia and the Western Powers.

On April 22, 2013, student groups will role-play these actors and non-actors in a game-like fashion in which they will be given choices of actions to play across a period of 6 game rounds. Each round will be prefaced by a description of one or more critical events, and students will be asked to make decisions about how to respond. Play will be divided into 3 phases–Research, Action and Voting.

Students will be asked to research the event and the actions they can take prior to taking action, and non-actors will be asked to cast votes of Confidence or Contempt for these actions.

Actions will generate scores across dimensions including casualty rates and refugee counts and groups will be presented with a “Win” condition to promote peacemaking in the region.

We successfully pilot-tested this design at a recent World History Association of Texas conference and are looking forward to fleshing out this work for the full event in mid-April.

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Syria Simulation Workshop - 2013 WHAT Conference

  1. 1. Playing  Games  to  Teach  Complex  Conflicts  
  2. 2. •  Jason  Rosenblum:  ITEC,  UNPG  &  SMBX  •  Mity  Myhr:  BSSX  •  Christie  Wilson:  BSSX  •  Selin  Guner:  BSSX  •  Christopher  Micklethwait:  UNPG  
  3. 3. •  Knowledge  Building  •  Social  Responsibility  •  Intercultural  Competencies  •  Experiential  Engagement  
  4. 4. •  Analysis  of  the  Roles/Goals  of  Internal  and   External  Actors  •  Analysis  of  Factors  that  Promote  Conflict   or  Peacemaking  
  5. 5. •  Understand Influence of Resources and Shifting Alliances•  Understand Complexity of Choices and Appreciate Consequences•  Appreciate Value of Corroboration/ Cooperation in Achieving Goals
  6. 6.    Game-­‐like  simulation  +  Role-­‐play  +  Conflict  
  7. 7. •  equates  live  simulation  games  with  a  constructivist,   experiential  learning  approach  (Kolb,  1984)     •  Supply  Chain  Example  -­‐  beer  game:  http://   •  teamwork,  concrete  experiences  &  reflexive  activities  Kolb,  David.  (1984).  Experiential  learning:  experience  as  the  source  of  learning  and  development:   Prentice-­‐Hall.  Malave,  C.;  Figueiredo,  R.  (2002).    Practicing  active  and  cooperative  learning  using  live   simulation  games  in  the  classroom.  Proceedings  of  the  International  Conference  on   Engineering  Education.  Aug  18-­‐21.    Manchester,  U.K.  
  8. 8. •  affective,  cognitive,  behavioral  dimensions  of  attitude  •  studied  in  the  simulation:  Culture  and  Creed  •  MIT-­‐based  game/simulation  can  affect  attitudes  towards   international  conflict.  •  Affects  perspectives  in  moving  from  competition  to   cooperation.  Williams,  A.;  Williams,  R.  (2011).    Multiple  Identification  Theory:  Attitude  and  Behavior  Change  in  a  Simulated   International  Conflict.    Simulation  &  Gaming  42(6).  733-­‐747.  
  9. 9.    Role  play  in  education  resources  http://www.rpg-­‐­‐play_education.php  Model  UN  –  getting  started:­‐classrooms-­‐model-­‐un/how-­‐to-­‐participate  Crossley-­‐Frolick,  Katy.  (2010).    Beyond  Model  UN:  Simulating  Multi-­‐Level,  Multi-­‐Actor   Diplomacy  Using  the  Millennium  Development  Goals.    International  Studies  Perspectives.  11,   184–201    Rich  tradition  of  role-­‐play  to  support  learning.    Simkins,  David.    (2011).    Negotiation,  simulation,  and  shared  fantasy:  Learning  through  live  action   role  play.  ProQuest  Dissertation.    See  Chapter  4  –  History  of  role-­‐play  as  a  tool  for  learning.     pp  68  –  77.  
  10. 10. •  Peacemaker  used  in  dispute  resolution  classes  •  Individual  and  group-­‐based  work  •  Key  findings:   •  Role  reversal  leads  to  empathy   •  Ladder  of  inference  from  reactions  based  on  data  as   a  result  of  decisions  made.     •  Two-­‐level  diplomacy  to  gain  approval  from  national   interests  and  domestic  groups.  Goodrich,  K.;  Schneider,  A.  (2010).    The  Classroom  Can  Be  All  Fun  and  Games.    Ohio  State   Journal  on  Dispute  Resolution.    25(1).    87-­‐103  
  11. 11. •  Syria  Simulation  based  on  Peacemaker,  except:  Syria  as   setting;  live  role-­‐play  of  Actors  &  Non-­‐Actors  •  Supported  by  SEUs  own  Peacemaker  pilot  &  Goodrich  &   Schneider  (2010)  •  Want  students  to  build  empathy  through  non-­‐Western   POVs  &  (for  some)  morally  oppositional  stances.  •  Make  decisions  based  on  outcomes  following  each   round:  re:  casualty  counts,  #  refugees  fleeing,  etc.  •  Balance  approval  ratings  from  multiple  non-­‐actors  
  12. 12. •  giving  them  a  “win”  scenario  in  which  no  one  player  can   actually  win,  except  through  cooperation.   •  BUT  they  need  to  garner  approval  from  multiple  non-­‐ actors,  including  the  UN  general  assembly   •  we  predict  most  actions  will  result  in  a  split  along   ideological  lines  in  character  profiles.   •  In  theory  there  is  a  way  to  win  through  cooperation,  but   in  practice  this  is  unlikely,  thus  mirroring  the  setup  of   the  real  life  conflict.  Bogost,  Ian.  (2007).  Persuasive  Games  -­‐  The  Expressive  Power  of  Videogames:  The  MIT  Press.  
  13. 13. Phase  I  :  Research  • Read  profiles  &  materials  • Consider  event  Phase  II  :  Action  • Review  options,  discuss  &  choose  action  • Group  presents  &  discusses  their  choice.    Phase  III  :  Voting  by  Non-­‐Actors  
  14. 14. fin.   @jarosenblum