Effects of Simulation Based Learning – Results and Challenges of a Panel Survey

Experimental Design
Higher Education
Survey Experiments
Survey Research
Jan Robert Lohmann
Universität Passau
Jan Robert Lohmann
Universität Passau

The proposed paper intends to present and discuss the method and results of a panel survey on the long-term effects of learning through policy simulations as one method of active learning. The use of methods of active learning in general and simulation-games in particular is increasing constantly. How-ever, a comprehensive debate on the sustainability of knowledge acquisition through simulations - and thus the success of this instrument - is still lacking.
A pilot study at a German university attempts to address this desideratum. Within a lecture in Political Science, a policy simulation covers all of the content related to the European Union. Before taking part in the simulation, participants have been confronted with an online questionnaire including test and self-assessment questions. After the simulation, this has been repeated twice. To compare the effects of the simulation and the rest of the lecture, questions about both parts are included.
First results are astonishing. Students learn much more by participating in the simulation than in the lec-ture. Moreover, they can remember the contents much better over a longer period. Nevertheless, these findings are only valid for the active parts within the simulation, not the passive parts like prepar-ing for the game.
However, this contribution will discuss challenges and difficulties of that project, too. Are control-groups needed in this quasi-experimental design for getting better results? Would it be more fruitful to com-pare the outcomes of the simulation with other methods of active learning? Can we gain better insights into students' learning by using focus groups for discussing the results?
These and more questions will be addressed and discussed in this paper, besides the presentation of profound findings and of the methods used for getting insights into short- as well as long-term effects on students' learning by using simulation-games.
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"...the good of man must be the objective of the science of politics" - Aristotle

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