Instructor Notes Week 0 Class 1 2013

ppol225f2013 simulate

Welcome and Introduction (5 min)

  • Who I am. How I come to be teaching this course.
  • Where does the course fit in with what one does as a policy person or social scientist?
    • One part of our jobs is to be a system designer, system tweaker, or system explainer. These are tools that help us to do that.
    • A set of tools with which we can
    • understand systems and aggregations of human behavior
    • investigate the consequences of changes to systems
    • test and validate our ideas about how to design systems
  • Fundamental underlying logic I
    • I see a pattern
    • I think what's going on is this…
    • If I am right, then I'd expect to see this other thing…
    • Do I?
  • Fundamental Underlying Logic II
    • If the thing is put together like this…
    • What would happen if….
  • But mostly it is about our ethical responsibilities
    • to be right - someone might rely on your work
    • to understand the systems we design or intervene upon
  • What will we learn and how will we proceed?
    • Flow charts; logic models; decision models; stock and flow models; feedback; Markov processes; linear programming; tipping; peer effects; diffusion; coordination; cooperation; game theory; mechanism design
    • WAY TOO MUCH FOR A SEMESTER. What to do? Just a survey?
    • How much will one learn?
      • (x) Learning THAT such things exist, what they look like, what they are good for
      • (x) Learning enough about how to do them that one could consult sources in the future and re-figure it out.
      • (x) Learning enough to be able to collaborate with an expert
      • (x) Learning enough to know it is there and be poised to gain further expertise later
      • (in some cases) Learning enough to be able to do it oneself right now, right away
      • (no) Learning enough to be an expert in a technique.
  • HOW? Pseudo-hybrid course. Some "flipped" classroom. Focus will be on learning outside the classroom. (1) Always been that way. (2) Temporal efficiency — everyone at her own pace. (3) Instructional time spent on things that make a difference in the learning process. (4) Focus on doing rather than remembering. (5) Active learning rather than passive note-taking.



  • Introduction to Coursera & Scott E. Page (SEP)
  • Lecture 1.1: Why Model? (8:52)

Pace and Structure

  • Two parts. Part I = How to Use Six Power Tools; Part II = A Zoo of Standard Models
  • Exception is substitution of a "big data" segment toward the end which will be a little more like the first part.
  • Each week has two classes and one lab. USUALLY there will be a sequential logic to how they are organized.
  • Classes will be focused on DOING. Often that means working problems. Sometimes it will be clarifying challenging concepts. In either case, the expectation will be that you have LEARNED the material PRIOR to class. This means that a reading assigment or a video lecture is not just something you get through and then have the instructor explain the same thing. You are expected to use the text or video to learn the material. The class will reinforce, support, and evaluate that.
  • To that end, the syllabus is set up in terms of what you should do BEFORE each class or lab. Often these will be followed by an exercise, practice problems or a quiz. These will have specific due dates and submitting them on time and in a professional manner will be a large part of the work for credit in this course.

Problem Sets

  1. All work for this course, including problem solutions and lab write ups, are intended to provide opportunity to practice professional communication habits. As such they are NOT
    1. simply a copy of the writing you did to solve the problem,
    2. first drafts,
    3. "what the teacher wants"
  2. They ARE a presentation of the problem, your thinking about how to solve it, and the steps to get to the solution. They have the following properties
    1. Problem solutions are self-documenting, stand-alone documents.
    2. They include the text of the problem, a summary of principles/concepts/tools employed, and the explicit steps used to reach the solution.
    3. They include authorship information and information about other collaborators and contributors.
    4. They include citation for materials produced by others
    5. Pages are numbered
    6. Computer generated documents usually include file name, date saved, date printed, etc.
    7. Digital documents have smart file names.
  3. They are almost always "copied over" or "re-written" after you have actually solved the problem.
  4. When we write out a sequence of mathematical equations we write them out explicitly and consistently using standard notation. We "line up our equals signs."
  5. We use paper and white space liberally.

What's Next?

After Thursday's classes:

  1. Get a Coursera account and sign up for Model Thinking.
  2. Watch about 45 minutes of lecture
  3. Read ch. 2 "Types of Models" in Stokey and Zeckhauser.
  4. Read The Model Thinker: Prologue, Introduction and Chapter 1
  5. Read Why Model? by Joshua Epstein
  6. (optional) Read pp. 11-43 of Schelling's Micromotives and Macrobehaviors.

DUE before 11 p.m. Sunday September 1


Flow Charts

Week 1 Tuesday September 3

BEFORE class

  1. Ryan on Flowcharts I
  2. Flow Charts for Simple Tasks: Tutorial with exercises at Univ Plymouth, UK
  3. Flow Charts for Classification: Tutorial with exercises at Univ Plymouth, UK
  1. Do (in problem notebook) problems 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75