Veronica Kitchen: Learning Through Play
Veronica Kitchen, Department of Political Science
Written by Sarah Forbes, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE.
If you walk into Dr. Veronica Kitchen’s World Politics class, you might think you’ve taken a wrong turn into the Drama department. Unlike a typical political science lecture, her students spend class time participating in games and active demonstrations that subtly mimic the real-world circumstances of politics. These games, according to Kitchen, allow students to take a break from sitting still and listening, as well as allow them to organically reach conclusions that mirror what academics have learned by observing the real world of politics.
Kitchen’s perspective on teaching closely parallels her ideas about interaction, new technology, and student individuality. “Google will always win for mere answers,” she explains, “but students will still need a toolbox to help them interpret and act on information, and that’s what I hope to provide.” In her upper year classes, Kitchen allows her students to guide the topics they discuss each class. This way, they can use their existing skills and foundational knowledge to explore what they truly find interesting. To get them to this level, Kitchen has learned to act as a guide in the first-year courses, allowing students to get to answers in their own way in order to build their confidence and their ability to navigate information.
The experiential learning in World Politics parallels this exploration. By providing interactive learning games for her students, Kitchen hopes that they’ll learn the ”deeper” lessons of political science. These go beyond theories to examine the interaction of factors such as frustration, anger, and trust – base human emotions that can influence negotiations in positive or negative ways. So far, it seems to be working. While fully integrating experiential learning into World Politics was just an experiment last year, she plans to continue it with slight modifications in the future. She’s looking forward to seeing students who have experienced experiential learning in her fourth-year seminars and beyond, and discovering where political science takes them in the future.
Read more Teaching Stories
CTE's Katherine Lithgow can provide guidance on developing experiential learning activities for your courses. Additionally, CTE has web resources on experiential learning.
CTE's Mark Morton has interviewed Veronica Kitchen regarding teaching with simulations.