Simulating the US National Security Interagency Process: Solid Foundations and a Method of Assessment

Simulating the US National Security Interagency Process: Solid Foundations and a Method of Assessment

By William W. Newmann, Virginia Commonwealth University and William T. Christiansen, Mount St. Mary’s University

Simulations help students grasp the complexity of political decision-making. The paper introduces simulations of the US national security interagency process and assess the impact of simulations on student learning and perceptions of politics compared to lectures. Students develop a sense of confidence after lectures and readings reducing the perceived complexity of political decision-making. Participation in the simulation allows students to see complex dynamics in political processes that lectures and readings do not.

This paper considers the lessons learned from these simulations and provides an example of an assessment method. Two key lessons are highlighted. First, simulation preparation should be linked to class materials and learning outcomes, but also stand on its own as a valuable learning experience. Second, success in mirroring reality requires a careful, even rigid, simulation structure. The simulation assessment measures how well the simulation increased student knowledge of the national security interagency process, and how it may have changed student perception of the complexity of those decision making processes. The assessment methodology used here was limited by the low number of students in the class; it did, however, provide interesting first cut tests of hypotheses that could be tested in future iterations of this style of simulation.

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The Journal of Political Science Education is an intellectually rigorous, path-breaking, agenda-setting journal that publishes the highest quality scholarship on teaching and pedagogical issues in political science. The journal aims to represent the full range of questions, issues and approaches regarding political science education, including teaching-related issues, methods and techniques, learning/teaching activities and devices, educational assessment in political science, graduate education, and curriculum development.


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