Teaching Electoral Institutions Using In-Class Simulations


Understanding how such institutions shape political outcomes is an incredibly useful skill for students of political science to develop. I argue that facilitating simulations where students can participate in mock-elections structured by real-world institutions can serve as a potent tool to aid students’ learning. In the fall semester of 2021, I implemented several electoral simulations into my class on political parties and elections in the United States. The most comprehensive of these was a mock Iowa Democratic caucus. I significantly updated this simulation in the spring semester of 2023. Following formal procedures used at the actual Iowa caucuses, students engaged in discussions and debates over which candidate to support, and ultimately came to a final decision for their simulated precinct. The simulation helped students understand the complex rules and procedures which structured the real-world case of the Iowa caucuses, and helped them form conclusions about the virtues of those institutions.



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