It's too easy to point out Confucius' saying that ends with "I do and I understand". But it's also true! Learners must be highly involved in experiential teaching strategies to be successful 21st century citizens.

You’ve carefully developed all the dimensions of your simulation, with one possible exception:

– What are your learning goals?. Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it but curiously I’ve seen many a simulation, commercially prepared and otherwise, that doesn’t exactly know what the simulation is intended to do for its participants. Worse, I’ve seen too many teachers pick something off the shelf and just use it because it “might” meet their goals. Ecch.

There can be two ways to do this: One would be developing your goals beforehand. You know, the good old-fashioned way. The second way would be inside out, that is, pilot the simulation once or twice and through observation and debriefing, sift out what learning goals the simulation appears to be most productive for.

This second way, assuming you have the time to “experiment” this way, and that is a big assumption, has much merit to it. The yes-but is time and another one is oh by the way, there are children aka human subjects in the mix. Madeline Hunter said “Time is the coin of all teaching.” and we simply don’t have a whole lot to possibly waste. That children / students are ultimately the beneficiaries or the victims of the quality of a chosen teaching method can frighten the professional sensibilities of even the most skilled teacher.

Therefore the middle road is to be pretty sure, very sure, that you are comfortable with what you want to do with any teaching strategy before you press the button.

The reason why this post is spending much time on the premise of getting your goals in order is because once your goals are solidified in either of the two ways discussed above, it’s really pretty important to make these goals known to the participants!

When you’re sure this is done. Think about the next planning issue:

Is your simulation set up for small or large groups? Individual “play”? Most simulations are set for small groups that operate with and among other groups. Some simulations are “intra” others are “inter”.

That is, in “intra” the group’s activities and expectations are isolated from other group’s operations and activities. Where the opposite is true for the “inters”. In this set up the activities and decisions of one group are very much interdependent.

As an example of “intra” I publish a simulation called “Ups and Downs” (http://www.activelearningconsult.com ).  It is a simulation of the Stock Market crash of 1929, how it happened, what was done about it. Each group is comprised of workers, business owners, stock brokers, and bankers. All of the economic activities, buying selling stocks on margin, etc., done within the group.

As an example of “inter” I publish a simulation called “Cutthroat” (http://www.activelearningconsult.com). It is a simulation of the post Civil War Industrial Revolution. Students are divided into Railroads, Coal Mines, Iron Mines, Steel Companies, Automobile Manufactures. In this simulation the groups must compete with and negotiate with each other to buy and sell their services, materials, and products.

Each of these dynamics require the thoughtful teacher to weigh how she will construct her groupings to maximize the dynamic and reduce the anxiety.

More about this next post.

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