The role-playing game: engineering students meeting real world wicked problems
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Structured Abstract The traditional and core focus of civil engineering education is the provision of students with the technical skills needed to solve problems and create solutions to human settlements, infrastructure and the environment. However, these solutions are often challenged by the complexity of the socioeconomic system when multiple actors have different views on the issues at stakes and multiple solutions, a so-called wicked problem (Rittel and Webber, 1973). The main objective of the course Coastal Zone Management at Griffith University is to expose civil engineering, planning and science students to real world problems and situations in coastal engineering and management. In this paper we focus on the Role Playing Game, a graded assignment introduced in Coastal Zone Management in 2011, and used in the last three years of this course. This assignment, which is based on the student's engagement in a simulated stakeholder workshop, is designed to address critical learning outcomes for today's engineers and planners such as critical thinking, negotiation and communication skills and the ability to work in teams. The Role Playing Game, currently used for the course Coastal Zone Management, can be easily adapted to other planning or management courses in engineering or other disciplines. The purpose of the assignment is to expose planning and engineering students in the last years of their studies to real world stakeholder engagement processes, building conflict resolution and communication and negotiations skills. The Role Playing Game is designed to allow students to choose a real world stakeholder role and create and negotiate objectives and actions as part of the development of a hypothetical project or plan. In the course Coastal Zone Management we developed the role-playing game around the creation of the Coastal Management Plan for Dugong Bay, a hypothetical location in Queensland. The role-playing game consists in a 3 hours workshop facilitated by the course instructor, involving students as stakeholders from a range of hypothetical locations and sectors. In this case we used four hypothetical councils: Dingo Island Aboriginal Council, Muddy Creek Council, Pleasant Port Council, White Beach Council. In addition, we have identified and described 15 different stakeholders groups from the private and public sectors, such as council officers, State Government, tourism operators, environmental groups, developers, etc. The Role Playing Game is a graded assignment with the following assessment criteria: Participation in the workshop, Contribution to the debate and the Draft Plan, Answer to final questions. The results obtained indicate that the Role Playing Game is a successful mechanism for achieving the desired learning outcomes. This is reflected both in the results for this assignment, where students take the workshop very seriously to achieve good marks, and in the SEC (Student Experience of Courses) surveys, which have included positive comments on the learning experience for this course in all three years. The Role Playing Game for civil engineering described here has shown to be a very effective assessment item for students in their last two years of their studies as it allows them to experience possible real world situations with multiple stakeholder interests and objectives. This experience has shown students that often technically sound solutions can have multiple facets in a multi-stakeholder environment. By building capacity in critical thinking, communication and negotiation, the Role Playing Game teaches students that in the real world the chosen solution is often the one that minimises stakeholder conflicts.
Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
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Civil Engineering not elsewhere classified