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Professors publish article on career simulation

Drs. Sinn and Phipps with students
Dr. Robb Sinn (back row left) and Dr. Marnie Phipps (back row right) are taking students through a simulated semester-long career as faculty members

Two professors at the University of North Georgia have published an article featuring research from classroom-based career simulations that shows an increase in students’ desire to pursue graduate studies and careers in higher education. The article is published in the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Dr. Robb Sinn, professor of mathematics, and Dr. Marnie Phipps, assistant professor of mathematics, wrote the article to document and share a classroom method developed by Sinn that simulates for students the experience of working as a tenure-track faculty member throughout an entire semester.

“During the course of my game theory class, students begin the simulation by being ‘hired’ as tenure-track faculty members with all the typical expectations of an academic career,” Sinn said. “They earn scholarship points in three categories: teaching, service, and research—the same three evaluation categories we academics face if we wish to be promoted and tenured.”

The class meets twice per week, with one class devoted to a game theory conference. A conference organizer schedules the speakers and serves as master of ceremony. Presentations can earn teaching points by presenting solutions to homework problems, or research points by presenting proofs of theorems and conjectures. After each conference, the organizer posts the conference proceedings online.

“We also have four class journals, each with an editor,” Sinn said. “Each student in the class is required to submit an article to a journal. The editors have two other students serve as peer reviewers. After peer review, the editor works with the authors to get the papers published.”

Dr. Robb Sinn and Dr. Marnie Phipps
Dr. Robb Sinn and Dr. Marnie Phipps

Sinn devised the structure of the simulation in 2005, and Phipps engaged in research of the resulting simulations with ethnography—a qualitative research design that focuses on the investigation of a new culture and trying to determine what is unique or different about it. Phipps conducted a large-scale study in spring 2012 based upon the early results published in the article.

“Game theory has a diversity of applications, making it ideal for this simulation,” Phipps said. “Career simulation empowers students to discover and learn about their own interests. It is truly a unique process.”

According to Sinn, the results of the research have demonstrated that a semester-long career simulation can have a positive impact on students' desire to go on to graduate studies and consider careers in academics. He also said students felt certain aspects of their learning were improved by the simulation format, especially by independent investigations, a required research paper, and presentations to the class. Sinn and Phipps hope to draft another research paper about the simulation and its results this summer.

"The career simulation encompasses the best work I've done as a professor, and it's exciting to see research about the outcomes finally getting disseminated,” Sinn said.

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