Episode 111: Social Studies Simulations with Cory Wright-Maley

In this episode, Dan and Michael chat with Cory Wright-Maley of St. Mary’s University in Calgary, Canada about teaching simulations in the social studies.

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Episode 111- Social Studies Simulations

Books, Articles and Other Amazing Resources

  1. Check out Cory’s book featuring the work of the top scholars in studying simulations in the social studies: More like life itself: Simulations as powerful and purposeful social studies. The chapters include great examples of simulations in different areas of the social studies, conceptual and practical work around design and application of simulation, and examples of effective and ineffective practices with simulations.
  2. Cory’s work on specific simulations:
    1. Plague
    2. Deficit Crisis Monopoly
    3. OPEC
  3. Wright-Maley, C., Lee, J., & Friedman, A.M. (2018). Digital simulations, games, and other emerging technologies in historical learning. S. A. Metzger & L.M. Harris (Eds.). International Handbook of History Teaching and Learning. Wiley-Blackwell. This article provides a thorough review of the literature on how digital simulation and gaming are emerging as ways of approaching history education.
  4. Wright-Maley, C. (2015). What every social studies teacher should know about simulations. Canadian Social Studies, 48(1), 8-23. This article is a great primer for teachers thinking about simulations. It summarizes research and provides a good overview of the challenges and affordances of simulations in the social studies.
  5. Wright-Maley, C. (2015). On “stepping back and letting go”: The role of control in the success or failure of social studies simulations. Theory and Research in Social Education, 43(2), 206-243. This research paper discusses the role of teachers in mediating simulations, including how to manage them effectively. One of the key insights is how teacher control can improve or destroy a simulation.
  6. Wright-Maley, C. (2015). Beyond the “Babel problem”: Defining simulations for the social studies. Journal of Social Studies Research, 39(2), 63-77. This conceptual paper outlines what is and is not a simulation, and teases apart simulations from other related phenomenon (including a Venn diagram!)
  7. Wright-Maley, C. (2014). In defense of simulating complex and tragic historical episodes: A measured response to the outcry over a New England slavery simulation. Canadian Social Studies, 47(1), 18-25. This article tries to tease apart the challenges and affordances of teaching with simulations related to complex and tragic historical issues. Other authors provide excellent critiques of simulations of this kind. Cory suggests: Ingrid Drake’s note of caution on simulations of this kind, Monita K. Bell’s critical warning to steer clear, and Totten’s critique of Holocaust simulations
  8. For much more promising research and practice with simulations, see the great  work of Walter Parker & Jane Lo on government simulations, Simone Schweber’s study of a holocaust simulation, the GlobalEd simulations, and a number of sims by simulation training systems, who sell the StarPower simulation Dan discussed in this episode, Lorrei DiCamillo and Jill Gradwell’s work.
  9. For more information on simulations gone wrong, take a look here for the Third Wave simulation, here for the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the ever controversial Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes simulation here.


Cory Wright-Maley, Ph. D. is Associate Professor of Education at St. Mary’s University in Calgary, Canada, located in Treaty 7 Territory – the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy, home to the Tsuu t’ina, and the Stoney Nakoda, as well as the Métis Nation, Region 3. He teaches social studies education and pedagogy. His research interests include simulations, democratic education, teacher education, and economic inequality. He is the co-editor of Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity (Routledge, 2017), and editor of More like Life Itself: Simulations as Powerful and Purposeful Social Studies (Information Age, 2019). He is also the co-recipient of a 2018 Alberta Education Grant for Innovation in Teacher Education directed at strengthening indigenous programming. You can learn more about him and his work at his university webpage and reach out to him on Twitter @Wright_Maley.

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