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Grounding simulations in reality: a case study from an undergraduate Politics degree

Simon Usherwood (Lecturer at the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies and Fellow of the Surrey Centre of Excellence in Professional Training and Education (SCEPTrE), University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 25 September 2009




The purpose of this paper is to address the issue of how best to reproduce realistic reproductions and outcomes in the dynamic environment of a simulated negotiation on a political theme.


Using a case study run by the author of a university undergraduate negotiation module, qualitative data are provided to support a pragmatic model of addressing issues of realistic behaviour and outcomes.


Through a combination of elements – notably, integration of more conventional academic research, use of repeated points of contact between students and the module leader, and extensive reflection after the exercise by the student – it is possible to provide for a simulation that more closely follows real‐world outcomes than would otherwise be the case.

Research limitations/implications

The use of a single case study clearly limits the ability to generalise and implies the need to replicate the work in new iterations and in new contexts.

Practical implications

The paper highlights the importance of grounding simulations in reality, if they are to maximise their utility as a teaching practice. It also stresses the high level of engagement, not only on the part of the students, but also on the part of the module leader, who must be an active part of the simulation structure.


The consideration of a continuous process of grounding simulations in reality is one that has not been explored by the existing literature, so it offers useful insights into practice that will be of value to both practitioners and theorists in the field.



Usherwood, S. (2009), "Grounding simulations in reality: a case study from an undergraduate Politics degree", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 296-302.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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