Water management simulation games and the construction of knowledge
- UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, P.O. Box 3015, 2601 DA Delft, The Netherlands
Abstract. In recent years, simulations have become an important part of teaching activities. The reasons behind the popularity of simulation games are twofold. On the one hand, emerging theories on how people learn have called for an experienced-based learning approach. On the other hand, the demand for water management professionals has changed. Three important developments are having considerable consequences for water management programmes, which educate and train these professionals. These developments are the increasing emphasis on integration in water management, the characteristics and speed of reforms in the public sector and the shifting state-society relations in many countries. In response to these developments, demand from the labour market is oriented toward water professionals who need to have both a specialist in-depth knowledge in their own field, as well as the ability to understand and interact with other disciplines and interests. In this context, skills in negotiating, consensus building and working in teams are considered essential for all professionals. In this paper, we argue that simulation games have an important role to play in (actively) educating students and training the new generation of water professionals to respond to the above-mentioned challenges. At the same time, simulations are not a panacea for learners and teachers. Challenges of using simulation games include the demands it places on the teacher. Setting up the simulation game, facilitating the delivery and ensuring that learning objectives are achieved require considerable knowledge and experience as well as considerable time-inputs of the teacher. Moreover, simulation games usually incorporate a case-based learning model, which may neglect or underemphasize theories and conceptualizations. For simulations to be effective, they have to be embedded in this larger theoretical and conceptual framework. Simulations, therefore, complement rather than substitute traditional teaching methods.