Crisis in North Korea
Two professors from Adrian College describe their experience with the Crisis in North Korea simulation.
Why we use the Crisis in North Korea simulation:
One of us is a Chemist and the other a Political Scientist. We co-teach an interdisciplinary course on Nuclear Weapons and Power that addresses both the scientific and political considerations associated with the topic. We start with the first efforts to understand the atom and continue through the development of nuclear weapons, proliferation, terrorism, civilian energy production, waste management, and nuclear medicine. The simulation functions as the culmination of the course, with students trying to resolve the crisis of a nuclear explosion in North Korea while representing their country's interests.
How ICONS connects with our course:
This simulation requires students to negotiate through their conflicting political goals to resolve an international crisis. It gives students an uncertain and evolving situation with fragmentary and changing information about a developing human catastrophe of unknown scope and effect. This allows us to evaluate the students' ability to integrate the concepts they have learned in the course.
Time we allot to each phase of the simulation (preparation, online negotiation, debrief):
We allot one fifty minute class period for introducing the simulation scenario to students. We show them how to use the simulation's tools, explain the purpose of negotiations, and make sure students understand their task is to pursue the interests of their assigned countries. We then allot three more fifty minute class periods for the simulation itself. This gives sufficient time for negotiations while maintaining a stress of time on each team's situational assessment, bargaining, and decision-making.
Instructor and student roles during the simulation:
The students represent the involved countries, with two to four students per country, so they have to engage in internal as well as external political discussion and bargaining. We do not assign students specific roles on their negotiating teams, but they can devise those on their own if they so choose. As instructors we act as the simulation controllers, injecting new information and reports of new events, both the pre-packaged ones and ones we create on our own (no two years have been alike). We try to ensure a good flow that keeps the negotiators from getting bogged down on a single issue or coming to agreement too quickly, by giving them several injects per class period. This also better models real-world complexity, as well as keeping them on their toes so they have to continually reevaluate the situation.
Learning objectives and assessment:
We have five learning objectives:
- Students should understand the variety of scientific and political factors relevant to a major nuclear event
- Students should think strategically about how to resolve a crisis issue in a way that protects their assigned country's interests
- Students should understand the differing interests of other countries
- Students should enhance their skill at negotiating
- Students should demonstrate their knowledge of the global nuclear age
We have three assessment items:
- Students write a "Pre-Negotiation Planning Report." In addition to the questions provided by the simulation's planning report, we ask students to explain their country's position on proliferation in general and North Korea's program in particular, and what their own and other countries' interests are in this event. Depending on instructor preference this can be either an individual or a team product.
- Students complete a structured "Post-Simulation Individual Reflection." We ask them to explain their country's goals, whether their goals changed as the crisis and negotiations developed, how successful they were, and what obstacles they faced.
- Students numerically evaluate the contributions of each member of their country's team. Each team member assigns a percentage of the team's whole effort reflecting the contributions of each member (including themselves), which must add up to 100%. E.g., on a four member team, a student whose average score was over 25% would have pulled more than her weight on the team.
Our advice for instructors preparing to participate in an ICONS simulation for the first time:
We prepared a list of questions, then had a phone conversation with an ICONS representative, who patiently and thoroughly answered them all. We recommend reading all the briefing materials for each team thoroughly prior to introducing the simulation so instructors are prepared to guide students who are uncertain about their country's interests or goals. We find it useful to give students their country assignments and the background information about two weeks before the simulation so they can better prepare.
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