Turn Zero Lessons

Last week was Turn Zero of Statecraft in my class, and I learned a few things. (Yes, I’ve been using Statecraft for 11 years, but this is only my second time using the fully automated online version–which continues to be updated with new features–and I’m still learning how best to make use of this powerful new version).

Keep in mind that Turn Zero is the setup turn in Statecraft–students can’t start interacting with other countries yet but they meet their fellow country members and they must set up their countries (choosing country names, government types, attributes, and positions for each student). Last Wednesday I gave students the full class period for Statecraft orientation. They took their simulation manual quiz (a necessary incentive for students to read the manual!) and then got in their country groups to set up their countries. Here’s what I learned from Turn Zero:

1) Reassigning students to countries is very easy once they have taken the foreign policy attitudes survey.  If you select “attitude survey” as the grouping method when creating your Statecraft world, students will be given a short survey and automatically assigned to countries based on their scores (this will normally create several hardline countries, several pacifist ones, and a few more moderate countries).   But the instructor can see students’ scores and, if they don’t like the automatic groupings, can move students from one country to another at will.  I wanted more extreme countries, with students scoring “off the charts” on military assertiveness grouped into two countries, and those scoring extremely high on cooperativeness/pacifism grouped together, with a range of “leaning hardline,” “moderate,” and “leaning pacifist” countries in between.  So I copied and pasted students’ names and scores from the Statecraft table into a spreadsheet and sorted from highest (most militarily assertive) to lowest (most accommodative).  I then took the top ten highest scorers and made two five-student countries (“seeding” each country with one of the top two highest scorers).  I did the same with the lowest scoring students, then created a range of moderate countries, most of which “leaned” hardline or accommodative.  It’s always interesting at the end of the semester to see how closely students’ simulation behavior approximated their initial foreign policy attitudes, in areas like international cooperation and conflict, military spending, and quality of life spending.  NOTE: I reassigned students before last Wednesday’s class session when they met their fellow country members, so they never knew they were moved around.

2) Students need to be reminded to enter their choices (country names, government types, etc.) online once they have made these decisions on Turn Zero.  During last Wednesday’s orientation session, I made each country fill out a page that included country name, city names, government type, attributes, and positions for each student.  They had to turn in that sheet before class ended.  However, when I checked Statecraft online two days later, five (out of 12) countries had not entered this information online.  All of this info must be entered before Turn Zero ends, or countries will be assigned a default government type and attributes which they may not want.  I sent a reminder email and everyone entered their information before Turn Zero ended, but it would be best if students were told to enter all of their info online immediately after making their choices (ideally on their laptops during the setup session).  Bottom line: (1) make sure to schedule your setup session long enough before Turn Zero ends that all students have time to enter their country information, and (2) remind them to do so as soon as they have made their choices.

The orientation/setup session is a great opportunity to get students excited about the simulation and remind them that there is actual class credit at stake in Statecraft.  I noticed quite a bit of in-group bonding as country members met, discussed their countries’ goals, and began to strategize.

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