Immersive Policy Learning: An Interactive Course Experiment

December 06, 2016 by Tanya M. Kelley, Erik W. Johnston

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An inĀ­course experiment provided undergraduate public policy students with tangible experience in dealing with unfair, discriminatory, intrusive, and arbitrary policies and practices similar to those that legally exist in government. Students were subjected to inĀ­course policies that gave preferential status and enhanced opportunities to some classmates while others were punished or handicapped. Each of the seemingly arbitrary conditions has parallels in U.S. legal, economic, and social systems. The experiment was designed to enhance student learning through an immersion in a simulated policy environment and to offer a personalized experience of dealing with unjust and arbitrary policies. Experimental and control group responses were analyzed with a grounded research approach. The authors found that the immersive environment led to deeper knowledge of the policy situation and an understanding of how to get involved in a policy area to effect change. This study illustrates potential applications for active learning, simulated empathy, and student empowerment.