Description and Resources
GOVT_112_SP_2013: Comparative Politics
Why do most European countries have more political parties than the U.S. does? How was the Soviet Union able to maintain its communist dictatorship for so long, and why is North Korea still communist? Has democracy finally arrived in Mexico, and how has this affected the everyday lives of Mexican citizens? These are illustrative of the types of questions that are addressed in this course. Our objectives are to 1) master several general themes and theories in comparative politics, 2) understand the differences between democracies and authoritarian systems, and 3) learn about the political systems of a few select countries. For the duration of this course, students take part in a comparative politics simulation held in a fictitious European country called “West Europa.” Students are assigned to political parties and these parties compete with each other through various political campaign, election, and government formation exercises. Ultimately, their end goal is to have their party leader win a final debate staged in front of an audience of their peers and professional judges.
For the duration of this course, students take part in a comparative politics simulation held in a fictitious European country called “West Europa.” Students are assigned to political parties and these parties compete with each other through various political campaign, election, and government formation exercises. Ultimately, their end goal is to have their party leader win a final debate staged in front of an audience of their peers and professional judges.
» Associate Professor of Government Sharon Rivera
This project is in the following groups:
» Comparative Politics Simulation
Completed Student Projects
West Europa Free Thinkers - Created Spring, 2006
Peoples Conservative Party - Created Spring, 2006
Goals, Process and Outcomes
Students in the role of Press Secretary collaborate with other students in their party to translate their party platform into a 1 minute campaign video. These videos are aired on the campus cable channel to adverstise each parties platform and stimulate interest in the public debate.
The overall goal of the simulation is to introduce students to basic parliamentary politics as well as provide them with an avenue to learn and develop basic literacy skill sets (collaborative work, research skills, media literacy, written and oral communication) useful in other classes and the workplace.
Faculty Interview: Project Goals
The simulation was designed with four goals in mind.
1. Bring to life some of the key topics central to an introductory comparative politics course, such as electoral systems, coalition governments, and party systems.
2. Engage students in cooperative learning and problem-solving activities.
3. Take away from the simulation some practical skills that students might be able to use in an internship or future job in the “real world.”
4. Foster the ability to see the world from various perspectives, both by encouraging students to work with others whom they may not already know and by allowing them to assume alternative identities for the simulation.
To develop and demonstrate basic literacy skills, students follow a learning process collaboratively designed with academic support services provided by the college, including HILLgroup - a collaboration of the library reference department and instructional technology services, partnering with the Oral Communication Lab. Students were also encouraged to consult with the Writing Center.
The simulation is designed to provide students opportunities to develop skills in which they have the most interest. As such, each student selects a different role within the party that has a structured set of expectations associated with it (see Rubric). “Policy experts” are expected to conduct library research to draft a party platform that contains practical ideas and is compatible with the party’s assigned ideology. “Party secretaries” are to provide weekly detailed accounts of party activities (accomplished through group discussion board assignments in Blackboard) and communicate with the professor on organizational questions. “Press secretaries” work with instructional technologists to learn basic videography, and dynamic composition skills tailored to advertisement in order to film a one-minute professional campaign ad. They are also expected to apply knowledge learned from in-class lectures on visual literacy and political parties in designing a party logo. “Party leaders” work with their parties and the Oral Communication Lab in preparation for their appearance in the final debate. This event is advertised via the airing of the party logos and campaign ads on the campus cable channel. Party leaders debate one another in front of a student audience meant to simulate the citizens of “West Europa” and a set of three professional judges consisting of a government professor, head of the Oral Communication Lab, and a senior world politics major. At the conclusion of the debate, the panel of expert judges selects the debate winner. Overview of other course activities and how they fit into the simulation are in the course syllabus.
Project outcomes are assessed by several methods, including a post-simulation survey of all students in the class. In the survey, students are asked to comment on their perception of the educational value of each activity in the simulation. On a scale from 1 - 5 (with 1 indicating complete disagreement and 5 complete agreement), students are asked to rate the extent to which they agree with the following statement: "This activity was very useful in helping me understand how political parties operate before, during, and after a campaign." As the figure below shows, the four most highly rated activities tend to be the drafting of the party platform, public debate, in-class presentation of the party platform, and creation of an original campaign ad. The coalition formation exercise and design of the party logo are also rated highly. Selecting a party name is judged to be less helpful, and the utility of the weekly reports is ranked the lowest each year—suggesting that even with much prodding from the professor, they did not provide the intended opportunity for reflection.
Faculty Interview: Learning Outcomes