With the degree of professionalism and expertise we see in Model UN today, a basic understanding of parliamentary procedure is not enough to participate fully at any conference. Of course, Model UN is an entirely teachable activity: but only when those theoretical lessons are accompanied by actual experience. The only way to truly prepare a new delegate for a conference is to emulate the conference atmosphere by running a simulated committee.
A common misconception is that simulations are only effective for novice delegates. In reality, experienced delegates also benefit from simulations.
Effective coaching of Model UN entails a dynamic intermingling of simulations AND traditional lessons. Both are equally necessary.
Using Parliamentary Procedure As a strategy
Traditional lesson plans teach parliamentary procedure as a linear list of rules, whereas simulations teach the ways in which procedure can be used to further a bloc agenda and stand out in committee.
Parliamentary procedure is not just a set of rules; it’s a strategy to be used to a delegate’s advantage.
Not only do simulations give delegates a chance to practice raising their placards quickly, but they offer an opportunity to practice committee tactics, like deciding when a division of the question is appropriate or understanding the nuances of the disruptiveness of various motions.
A simulation provides a chance to read a background guide, and extrapolate important information. One of the most important parts of Model UN research is critically reading the background guide.
The background guide is like a puzzle. The chair or crisis director wrote the background guide with multiple questions in mind, and it is the delegate’s job to find and answer those questions before the conference. Simulation background guides are often shorter in length and less in-depth, but they still offer a value opportunity to practice critical analysis.
Setting Up An Environment To Teach Leadership
Simulations force delegates to develop their leadership skills. Leadership is a skill that is impossible to teach in a classroom setting alone, but is the key aspect of winning awards during a conference. One massive component of strong leadership is confidence. Providing delegates a competitive, yet familiar, environment to hone in on Model UN skills will develop competency without the threat of perceived inadequacy or hyper-competition. A simulation teaches leadership because, in order to be successful in a simulation, the delegates must practice articulating and arguing for their solutions under a time constraint. This time constraint is also useful when practicing the equally crucial skills of writing resolutions, directives, and crisis notes.
Developing Team Camaraderie & Cooperation
Simulations are an important aspect of Model UN training because they provide team members with a sense of camaraderie. One of the enjoyable aspects of Model UN is that you have the opportunity to leave a conference having made new friends. Simulations should be approached with this same attitude. Simulations should be a fun opportunity for teammates to get to know one another and to create friendships that will extend beyond the Model UN team. This camaraderie will help delegates succeed at conferences.
When someone is part of a team, they work hard to succeed for the good of that team. Ergo, prioritizing team bonding is competitive.
In the end, the most important aspect of hosting simulations is that your delegates learn that Model UN isn’t only about parliamentary procedure and research skills. While these quantitative skills lay the groundwork for any successful delegate, students must learn that those are only a launching point. Lobbying, interpersonal communication, argumentation, speech-delivery, clause writing: these are skills that require practice.
The so-called “people skills” of Model UN can indeed be coached, but to truly master the art of diplomacy, you must be able to practice those strategies on different people.
Teaching Model UN means going beyond the PowerPoint presentations, and getting your hands dirty.
Training in parliamentary procedure is vital to a delegate’s success, but the strategies and skills that a delegate develops during a MUN team simulations are even more crucial to winning the gavel.
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