Experience is the Best Teacher – this is the major theme that makes simulations so powerful as a vehicle for learning and development. Simulations, designed properly, can approximate experience in key ways that enable participants to learn by doing in contextual issues.
Playing simulations in teams, increases their power for professional development dramatically because of the Social Learning aspect of the deployment and the opportunity for individuals to benefit from the Shared Experience with their peers. They grow from trying ‘stuff’ out and experiencing the consequences of their choices, both good and bad, and have to deal with the outcomes.
In thinking about the benefits that simulations offer in support of Experience being the Best Teacher, it is very easy to focus solely on the benefits to the individual student. After all, the simulation offers the student the opportunity to apply and learn from the experience they have with the sim. However, the true efficacy of this approach can be better seen when simulations are played in groups/teams.
As human beings, we are at our core, habit forming creatures and have a tendency to seek out the most comfortable way to get things done and stick with it, even when it may not be the best approach. This is part of the benefit of simulation, to provide opportunities to students to gain perspective on the benefits of other approaches. Along these, lines, human beings are also social creatures and crave contact with others. Therefore, when simulations are delivered to groups/teams, it provides an opportunity to harness both aspects of being Human to provide for a highly engaging and developmental experience.
By doing simulations in groups, participants are able to enhance the benefits of this approach through the engagement of the Social Learning and the opportunity for Shared Experience. Participants have the opportunity to have their biases challenged, in a non-confrontational way, as they work with their peers to make decisions in a collaborative manner. Having the opportunity to hear others’ perspectives on issues and to work towards consensus to make decisions help to improve judgment in an organic and fun manner and opens up the opportunity for ongoing discussion and collaboration to help establish a more robust learning culture in the district or building.