Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Dual purpose simulations in the professional education of Australian Foreign Policy graduates (#165)

Verity Kingsmill 1 , Maryanne Kelton 1
  1. Flinders University, ADelaide, SA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Active learning simulations, particularly in the professions, have long been recognised as valuable tools for learner-centred education.  The research literature has demonstrated extensive benefits for participants including: acquisition of a broad and deep understanding of the subject matter;  increased likelihood of the retention of knowledge; and development of empathy for others. At present, however, there exists an acute need for higher education institutions teaching foreign policy courses in generalist degrees to create innovative solutions to enable student experience of professional practice. Workplace-based opportunities for these students are extremely limited due to the sensitive and political nature of the professional work. In the Australian Foreign Policy dual strategy teaching initiative we deploy in-person simulations to enable graduates to develop both their discipline specific foreign policy knowledge and their professional non-technical skills. In an organic and real time group setting, these simulations integrate academic rigor, replicate real world issues and processes, equip students with the capacity to design a workable solution, and provide graduate practice for professional employment selection methods.  Graduates, who are placed in groups acting as policy advisors analysing and providing advice to government on a hypothetical crisis, are guided by current or former foreign policy practitioners. These practitioners provide feedback and advice on the graduates’ work. Since 2007, over 300 students have enthusiastically participated in the simulations. Quantitative student evaluations of teaching together with qualitative student, tutor, guest policy-maker and employer feedback has provided evidence to the project’s capacity to inspire; infuse value in the development of technical and nontechnical skills; and create utility for employers. Both the 2014 OLT Citation Award and 2014 University’s Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award received for this project recognise the creation of unique and exciting learning environments that effectively place students at the centre of their learning. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This paper demonstrates how an Australian Foreign Policy (AFP) simulation project develops graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals.  Graduates are educated through in-person simulations located within the AFP curriculum.  They analyse and respond to ‘live’, high fidelity Australian government international crises designed by the teaching staff. The simulations offer students the opportunity to develop and practice their application of knowledge, and also their non-technical and emotional intelligence skills, including communication, collaboration, negotiation, time management, individual and team adaptation, responsiveness to change, and presentation of ideas and solutions. Careers staff also educate students prior to the simulations regarding professional skills, while policy practitioners advise on departmental approaches to crisis management.  Graduates’ education to be responsive and adaptable occurs in a guided, risk-free environment and is thus both cognitive and experiential.  This example from a previous student, now in a federal government graduate program, is testament to the project’s capacity to educate graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals;  “my ability to be flexible and to adapt to new tasks and information in the workplace was enhanced because of these sessions.  I would recommend them for any student...”.