European Political Science

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 233–245 | Cite as

play it again, sam! teaching transferable skills through multiple repetitions of ‘simple’ simulations (with research benefits)

  • markus gastinger
Teaching and Training


The use of simulations in higher education teaching is burgeoning in political science curricula, particularly in international relations and European Union studies. This article contends that most simulations suffer from complexity bias and put too much emphasis on substantive knowledge. Drawing on the author’s experience, two ideal types of simulations are developed. ‘Complex’ simulations focusing on negotiating content and ‘simple’ simulations focusing on negotiating dynamics. It is argued that the transmission of transferable skills is facilitated by multiple repetitions of similar negotiating contexts within the same module. This suggests that instructors face a trade-off between teaching transferable skills and substantive knowledge and should locate their simulations at either end of this continuum. Where students are not native speakers, not yet familiar with specialised terminology or simply unversed in negotiating dynamics, there is a particularly strong argument to make for carrying out simple simulations first, followed by complex simulations later in the curriculum. Finally, opportunities for collaborative research are highlighted. Gathering and pooling data from simple simulations bridges pedagogy and research at minimal additional cost.


teaching active learning European Union transferable skills simulations game design 



The author is heavily indebted to Alasdair Blair and two anonymous referees for comments on an earlier draft of this article. All errors and inconsistencies are of the author’s own.


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Copyright information

© European Consortium for Political Research 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Technische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

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