Activity 2: Skills and Best Practices
The research on the use of simulations and role-play in education is extensive. For example:
- Significant behavioral changes could be accomplished via group discussion and role-play sessions then via lecture-style information sessions. (Lewin, 1951)
- Students who get the most out of simulations are those who are able to maintain a delicate balance between play and reality. (Jaques, 1992)
Often simulations are not used in the classroom because the effort to set them up is time consuming, putting demands on both students and teachers. In addition, care must be taken to assure that the objectives of the activity are not lost in the fun of playing the game.
Simulations and role-plays are demanding not only on the students, but also on the teacher. Brookfield (1990) notes that considerable effort is required in setting up a simulation scenario, ensuring that students are briefed on their roles, and in de-briefing them afterwards to ensure that they take the intended points away from the simulation experience. This last point is particularly important, since simulations require the teacher to relinquish control of the learning environment, and thus allow the process to move in possibly unexpected directions. Brookfield (1990) mentions this as another reason why simulations are demanding on teachers; they require that teachers, who are used to being in control of the learning environment, step back and "let things run". Teachers also need to be ready to handle unexpected situations that may arise during the course of a simulation.
Application to Real Life
The purpose of studying social studies is to make applications to real life. History is the story of our civilizations and has many lessons to offer. We need to make applications of these lessons as we encounter similar problems today.
Unfortunately, many social studies teachers are reluctant to take this last step in the teaching of a unit. They forget that virtually every school system across the country includes this application to real life as one of their goals:
The social studies program reflects our changing society in its relation to the world. It is intended that through a variety of learning experiences and in linking the past to the present, students will develop an appreciation of the continuity of the human experience. Our goal is also to help students realize that each individual has a contribution to make to society.
The social studies program includes history, geography, government and civics, economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology with subject matter drawn from the humanities - religion, literature and the arts. They are integrated in a systematic and interrelated way to explain the past and current human condition as well as future possibilities.