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3 When to use SGRP

Simulations, games and role-play may be used to serve different purposes at different points in a course. This section briefly reviews reasons for using SGRP in the beginning, middle and final stages of a programme of teaching. Given the similarities and overlap between SGRP, I have assumed they will perform similar functions at the various stages of a course of study. Admittedly, games are more likely to be effective as icebreakers than role-play, and simulations and role-play are more likely to be effective teaching strategies when reviewing a programme of study. However, the key issue as to when to use SGRP is the degree to which prior student knowledge is crucial to its success. This will largely determine when SGRP ought to be used.

SGRP create learning environments in which students talk to each other, solve problems and work collaboratively. Francis and Byrne (1999) found that one of the greatest benefits from conducting a role-play exercise amongst undergraduate astronomy and physics students was that it changed classroom dynamics into a ‘noticeably more interactive and friendly’ environment (p. 209). They felt that the role-play they used broke down barriers. Consequently, SGRP may be used as icebreakers at the start of a course and may be used to develop a culture in which students learn from each other. For this reason, they might be regarded as contributing to the development of an effective learning community. The International Trade Game (section 4.2) is an excellent example of a game that can be used to perform such a task. The game introduces some key principles of trade theory and policy, focusing especially on issues of efficiency and equity, and prompting questions about the fairness of the trading environment.

SGRP may also be used within the teaching of a module to deepen understanding by placing theoretically remote ideas in real-world situations. However, such potential gains need to be balanced against any additional tutor time that may be required in implementing SGRP (Gremmen and Potters, 1997) and the prior knowledge that students will require. According to Rodgers (1996), this is particularly important for role-plays, for which students will require ‘background information and appropriate economic tools to play their roles effectively’ (p. 219). The importance of background knowledge explains why tutors may regard the end of a course or theme as the most appropriate point at which to use SGRP. At this time SGRP may be used to help students to pull ideas and concepts together, clarifying connections between different aspects of their study. This should help them to recognise the interconnected nature of economic ideas.

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2 Why use simulations, games and role-play?
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4.1 Case study 1: The Virtual Economy