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Back to Paper Details
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The Benefits of Board Games to Teaching International Politics

Development
Methods
Education
Agnes Simon
Masaryk University
Agnes Simon
Masaryk University

Abstract

Most students feel distanced from foreign policy decision-makers and have unrealistic expectations about the policymakers’ ability to influence international politics. Rather than closing this gap, learning about past foreign policy crises make them even less appreciating of the politicians’ situation because the perspective they gain is very different from the context in which state leaders made their decisions. As a result, students cannot fully grasp the decision-makers’ limitations, and therefore, consider the cognitive explanations of foreign-policy decision-making farfetched, at best, and designed to whitewash politicians, at worst. To bridge the gap between students and decision-makers and evoke empathy toward the decision-makers, I have introduced the use of a table-top board game to class activities. This paper investigates the impact that the use of this innovative teaching tool has on student learning. When playing the game students experience cognitive and emotional challenges—e.g. uncertainty, stress, time and peer pressure—similar to those that decision-makers face at the time of a crisis. I use an experiential setting to study whether playing the board game helps students gain greater empathy toward decision-makers, and through that, a better understanding of cognitive foreign policy approaches compared to those students who were only exposed to traditional lecturing on the same subject. I use both qualitative and quantitative data to test my hypothesis.