Acta Politica

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 409–428 | Cite as

Students’ knowledge and perceptions of international relations and the ‘Model United Nations’: an empirical analysis

  • Enrico Calossi
  • Fabrizio Coticchia
Original Article


Unconventional learning activities such as games and simulations have been widely used as teaching tools in international relations (IR) in the recent years. The literature on simulations and student learning has often highlighted a lack of empirical evidence in the existing research. The paper aims at providing empirical support to illustrate the ways in which simulations might influence students’ levels of (factual and self-evaluated) knowledge and perceptions of IR. The study is based on extensive empirical material, collected through questionnaires submitted to 298 students who participated in the 2014 edition of the National Model United Nations in New York (NMUN·NY).


Simulation Model United Nations Perceptions Knowledge IR 



The authors wish to thank Lorenzo Cicchi, Graziano C. Gallitto, Francesco N. Moro and “Associazione Consules” for their suggestions and support. Enrico Calossi wrote the sections “Simulation and IR”, “Factual knowledge” and “Self-evaluated knowledge”; Fabrizio Coticchia wrote “Research design”, and “Perceptions”. All the other sections (“Introduction”, “The 2014 NMUN-NY: structures and procedures” and “Conclusions”) have been written jointly by the two authors.


  1. Axelrod, R., and R.O. Keohane. 1985. Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions. World Politics 38 (1): 226–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asal, V. 2005. Playing Games with International Relations. International Studies Perspectives 6 (3): 359–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brock, K.L., and B.J. Cameron. 1999. Enlivening Political Science Courses with Kolb’s Learning Preference Model. Ps. Political Science & Politics 32 (2): 251–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brunazzo, M., and P. Settembri. 2012. Experiencing the European Union: Learning How EU Negotiations Work Through Simulation Games. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino.Google Scholar
  5. Butcher, C. 2012. Teaching Foreign Policy Decision-Making Processes Using Role-Playing Simulations: The Case of US–Iranian Relations. International Studies Perspectives 13 (2): 176–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coughlin, R.W. 2013. Gender and Negotiation in Model UN Role-Playing Simulations. Journal of Political Science Education 9 (3): 320–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Corte, E. 2000. Marrying Theory Building and the Improvement of School Practice: A Permanent Challenge for Instructional Psychology. Leaning and Instruction 10 (3): 249–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dochy, F.J., and L. Mcdowell. 1997. Introduction: Assessment as a Tool for Learning. Studies in Educational Evaluation 23 (4): 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eckstein, H.H. 1975. Case Studies and Theory in Political Science. In Handbook of Political Science, Vol. 7. Political Science: Scope and Theory, ed. F. Greenstein, and N. Polsby. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  10. Frederking, B. 2005. Simulations and Student Learning. Journal of Political Science Education 1 (3): 385–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garard, D., L. Lippert, S.K. Hunt, and S.T. Paynton. 1998. Alternatives to Traditional Instruction: Using Games and Simulations to Increase Student Learning and Motivation. Communication Research Reports 15 (1): 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giovanello, S., J.A. Kirk, and M.K. Kromer. 2013. Student Perceptions of a Role-Playing Simulation in an Introductory International Relations Course. Journal of Political Science Education 9 (2): 197–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grieco, J. 1988. Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism. International Organization 42 (3): 485–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jonassen, D.H., and S.M. Land. 2000. Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  15. Kenworthy, J., and A. Wong. 2005. Developing Managerial Effectiveness: Assessing and Comparing the Impact of Development Programmes Using a Management Simulation or a Management Game. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning 32: 164–175.Google Scholar
  16. Krain, M., and J.S. Lantis. 2006. Building knowledge? Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Global Problems Summit Simulation. International Studies Perspectives 7 (4): 395–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Krathwoh, D., and R. David. 2002. A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice 41 (4): 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kruger, J., and D. Dunning. 1999. Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McIntosh, D. 2001. The Uses and Limits of the Model United Nations in an International Relations Classroom. International Studies Perspectives 2 (3): 269–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Obendorf, S., Randerson C. (2012) The Model United Nations Simulation and the Student as Producer Agenda. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences. Working paper. University of Lincoln.Google Scholar
  21. Pettenger, M., W. Douglas, and N. Young. 2014. Assessing the Impact of Role Play Simulations on Learning in Canadian and US Classrooms. International Studies Perspectives 15 (4): 491–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Phillips, M.J., and J.P. Muldoon. 1996. The Model United Nations: A Strategy for Enhancing Global Business Education. Journal of Education for Business 71 (3): 142–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pintrich, P.R. 2002. The Role of Metacognitive Knowledge in Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. Theory Into Practice 41 (4): 219–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Raymond, C. 2010. Do Role-Playing Simulations Generate Measurable and Meaningful Outcomes? A Simulation’s Effect on Exam Scores and Teaching Evaluations. International Studies Perspectives 11 (1): 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ripley, B.A., N.B. Carter, and A.K. Grove. 2009. League of Our Own: Creating a Model United Nations Scrimmage Conference. Journal of Political Science Education 5 (1): 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ryan, M., C. Saunders, E. Rainsford, and E. Thompson. 2014. Improving Research Methods Teaching and Learning in Politics and International Relations: A ‘Reality Show’ Approach. Politics 34 (1): 85–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Simpson, A.W., and B. Kaussler. 2009. IR Teaching Reloaded: Using Films and Simulations in the Teaching of International Relations. International Studies Perspectives 10 (4): 413–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Taylor, K. 2013. Simulations Inside and Outside the IR Classroom: A Comparative Analysis. International Studies Perspectives 14 (2): 134–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Waltz, K. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.Google Scholar
  30. Youde, J. 2008. Crushing Their Dreams? Simulations and Student Idealism. International Studies Perspectives 9 (3): 348–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political SciencesUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Political Sciences (DISPO)University of GenoaGenoaItaly

Personalised recommendations