Simple simulations

Simulations are often left out of post-16 teaching because they are perceived as taking too much preparation on the part of the teacher, too much time out of the lesson, and giving too little knowledge to the students compared to a ‘regular’ lesson.

But simulations have some huge benefits. They are memorable, flexible, fun, stimulating and allow synthesis to develop. Here are some ways to get simulations into lessons more effectively.

Simulations aren’t real

There’s no need to make the simulation life-like. Just because you’re trying to study how different development issues are prioritised doesn’t mean you have to simulate the entire process that led to the Sustainable Development Goals. Just make sure the students experience a little bit of the real thing by, for example, using the correct terms for the Judge / Chair / Chief Executive / etc, and if possible use the person’s real name.

Keep it simple

Simulations can be very simple. Get students into teams; tell them they are competing against the others, and that they will win depending on simple criteria. Unless the simulation is meant to be about a process e.g. the workings of the European Union, you can reimagine it to fit your needs.

Visuals are important

If it looks like a classroom, and sounds like a classroom, it probably is a classroom. Make it look different – arrange the tables, print out some flags, wear a costume, anything to make it look more like a different experience.

Sound is important

If you have different countries participating, play the national anthems (they’re easily available on YouTube) as each country steps up. It’s fun, changes the dynamic of the room, and gives the students a minute or so to get ready.

Don’t let it take too long

A single lesson for preparation (plus homework), and less than a single lesson for the simulation itself, should be sufficient. Ensure students don’t go over their allotted time for any presentation or discussion – be ruthless, and this problem will disappear over time as the students learn to match expectations.

Use existing resources

Simulations can take minutes to organise. For example, you could simulate the decision of where to hold the 2024 and 2028 Olympics by reopening the bid process from 2015; the bids have all been presented and published, so the resources are already there. Make it more focused by asking cities to present on just three criteria e.g. organisational capability, economic impact and social development.

Use real-life opportunities

Most geographical topics have a world summit each year which will give the simulation an extra relevance. For example, the World Cities Summit is an annual event. In 2018 the venue is Singapore.

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