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Simulations of Democratic Processes Toolkit

Simulations of Democratic Processes Toolkit

Simulations of democratic processes allow students to “do civics” in a safe environment to learn and practice knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Simulations should be used wisely. We recommend simulations that have students take on roles of civic actors in mock trials, legislative hearings, or town halls, not personas or perspectives that could cause trauma or harm to others.

Simulations vary in time, preparation, and scope. Some simulations require background information, other simulations build background information as they progress. Many online games from providers like iCivics, provide structured simulations that can be used in traditional, remote, or hybrid classrooms.

Watch this one-hour webinar for an overview of this proven practice of civic education.

Strategies to Create a Climate for Simulations of Democratic Processes

IllinoisCivics.org has curated resources to Create a Safe and Reflective Classroom for teaching civics. Resources include strategies for engaging student voice in creating and maintaining norms.

Preparing Students for Simulations of Democratic Processes

The Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools published by The Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of School outlines six proven practices of civic education, including simulations of democratic processes.

Teachers can prepare for success in simulation by creating learning experiences that help students:

  • Understand the essential and supporting questions related to the simulation.
  • Identify the learning standards (disciplinary content and/or skill) to be employed in the simulation.
  • Analyze appropriate materials to acquire the background information necessary to fulfill role expectations.
  • Pinpoint the pertinent civic dispositions and processes inherent in the simulation.

Student Participation in Simulations of Democratic Processes

Simulations should not be relegated to “dessert” at the end of a unit. At their best, simulations are the “meat and potatoes” of a rich learning experience in which students “do civics” in a safe environment. Student participation in simulations helps our youngest community members gain a deeper understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and institutions that gird our constitutional republic.

Successful simulations have students:

  • Discern the multiple roles, motivations, and perspectives of others in the simulation and identify appropriate allies to build coalitions necessary in simulation.
  • Anticipate challenges and employ systemic supports within the simulation.
  • Employ appropriate norms of participation throughout the simulation consistent with their tasks.
  • Identify and use appropriate means of communication consistent with the simulation (oral, digital, written, visual, other).

Picking the Right Simulation

Choosing the Right Simulation from the Constitutional Rights Foundation-Chicago gives a thumbnail description of the various simulations of democratic processes to consider.

Tools for Reflection on Simulations of Democratic Processes

It is important that students engage in reflective practices throughout the learning process to evaluate how thinking has evolved or been clarified and to assess the effectiveness of participation and opportunities for growth.

Professional Development Resources from Illinois Civics