Changing Students’ Belief in a Just World: In-Class Simulations as Effective Pedagogy


  • Susan Elswick
  • Peter A Kindle
  • David Johnson
  • Brooke Blaalid
  • Laura Brierton Granruth
  • Elena Delavega
  • Michael Burford
  • Jeffrey Thompson


Cognitive dissonance is an important element in adult learning in that it challenges previously held ideas in favor of new knowledge. In-class simulations and game-based learning are used as innovative and effective pedagogical tools in challenging adult learners and enhancing the students’ ability to think critically about larger societal needs. This paper will review the literature relevant to cognitive dissonance, adult learning, and game and simulation practices in higher education. The authors present the results of one simulation activity in a quasiexperimental non-random comparison group conducted across five universities within multiple undergraduate and graduate level social work policy courses. Findings of this research on the use of simulations in social work policy courses can be used to guide other social work programs with embedding this effective educational practice into their programs. Institutions of higher
education, specifically within the discipline of social work, can play an important role in continuing the research and evaluation of this effective pedagogical practice through measuring outcomes on student critical thinking and changes in student beliefs and biases.






Play: Development, Learning, and Therapy