Monday, November 25, 2013

Simulation and the hidden powers of experiential learning

Simulation can be very magical, as many nurse educators have discovered.  The speed of behavior change that is.  If done correctly and following the best principles of evidenced based teaching and learning practice.  However if done incorrectly, the damage to learner self confidence and cognitive scaffolding is enormous.
I was recently in the audience listening to an educator share their experiences with teaching through simulation. I was shocked and saddened to hear their practice techniques.  It was clear they had never truly learned about how to teach with simulation from a knowledgeable source.
This teacher was throwing the learners into the hot seat without any prior presentation of content and role modeling.  Essentially it was what simulationists call "hitting below the belt".  This is where you throw learners into a scenario for which they have not been given preparation that could help them be successful.  Experiential learning the old way.  Its the 'sink or swim" mentality for teaching and learning.  Unfortunately, this tactic is as outdated as it is inefficient and damaging.  It is critically important when taking on the art of simulation that educators learn about what simulation is and isn't.  It is important to read about how to approach and facilitate simulation learning.  Most importantly, respect and care for the learners who trust you to teach them.  When learners go into a simulation scenario unprepared for the situation, and perform to what their life experiences have granted them so far, this does nothing to grow their knowledge.  This instead may cause them to question their past and delay their receptiveness to new knowledge.  Suddenly they make mistakes and perform poorly in a situation that they were not prepared for.  Afterwards you ask them, "what were you thinking?  What went well?  What didn't go so well?"  Anxiety and shame may block the learning moment.  What should they say?  "I should have known to do X, or I should have known not to do Y?"  Well of course this is the end result.  You cant blame them for not knowing.  But the learner doesn't know this.  The learner only knows they didn't perform well.
The art of simulation is about experiential learning.  Simulation experiences should be guided, and positive.  Learners should feel that they are practicing a new skill.  Learners should "know" what to do and in simulation, have a chance to "do" what they know to do.
Simulation is magic.  But only if facilitated by a knowledgeable educator who values evidenced based practice.  Beware of those old school simulationists.  They know not what they do.

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