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.

I think Madeline Hunter said that a teacher makes 300 decisions a day. Anyone who has taught 25 students every 40 minutes can certainly think of 300 decisions in a period let alone a day.

The deciding during a simulation may actually compound that number. I have used the conducting the  orchestra metaphor before I know but it certainly applies here as well as we consider the teacher – facilitator role amidst the multi dimensions of experiential activity.

Remember that you have to monitor and adjust for

– student behavior

– student confusion

– keeping everyone engaged

– assessing on the fly.

Student Behavior – is usually amazingly fine. By this I mean if the simulation has been set in motion properly and the model and dynamics are aligned properly, for the most part students’ behavior is remarkably task focused.

A note of caution here, if you are expecting a “silent” class, you have missed the point of experiential teaching in the first place. Oh no, the class will likely not be very quiet. To the contrary. However the kind of bustle and student exchange will in fact be not-silent.

Student Confusion – is in direct correlation with the extent to which you prepared the students and hopefully mini-practiced. In addition it could be argued that student MISbehavior could be a function of the fact that for one reason or another they are addled by what they must do in a very different kind of learning activity than they are usually accustomed to. As you diagnose what the confusion may be it is best to try to diagnose on-the-fly the source of confusion. If necessary stop the whole class’ activities until you clarify what may be throwing some of many students out of kilter. And always, always, check for understanding before letting them return to the simulation.

In many cases, my experiences are that given students are either not sure of their own specific role to which they have been assigned, or as is often likely, a student has dominated the group’s activity, usually out of great zeal. In the first instance, it is best to refer the student to the handouts and help them regain their role. It is also helpful to ensure that the whole subgroup reviews and reaffirms that role too.

It may also be true that if that particular role is played by students in every subgroup, that the handout does not properly describe the expectations of that particular role. For example, if you have designed a role as Treasurer but have not told all the treasurers how to figure out “profit”, clearly the Treasurer-role-players are at a loss (no pun intended).

In the second instance, where a zealous student has overstepped her bounds you could have a more thorny group dynamics issue to solve. If a student is dominating the proceedings other students will either struggle to gain a balance or they will “drop out”, being perfectly content to let the other student do all the work.

In this case, it’s best for you to call a time out for that group and, depending on the group maturity, either facilitate a quick conversation about what is working and not working among the students or flat out re-direct them so they know how to balance each other’s responsibilities.

Keeping Everyone Engaged – is a function of the quality of the simulation design in the first place. And here I refer to the sections above. Again since no student is ever alike they will engage the activity differently according to their own learning strengths and weaknesses, and often too, according to their ability to collaborate in groups. Your chief function here is to keep circulating among your simulation groups to be sure everyone is on task and to encourage those students who may be reluctant, to contribute to the activities.

Assessing on the Fly – is about the extent to which you see them mastering the lesson goals, be they content-based, skills-based, or process skills based, or all of the above.

Here it is important that you KNOW what you were looking for in the first place in terms of these three categories of learning objectives. If you don’t know in the first place, how will you know when or if you observe their mastery or non-mastery?

If concerns begin to crop up do not panic. The real lessons’ master of objectives acid test will come in the debriefing. But you should make note of learning issues as you observe them and it’s probably best if you can, to wait until the simulation is completed in order to plug up the holes you think you have noted.

My feeling is that unless it is a blood-on-the-floor learning issue, your efforts to stop the bleeding during the simulation may actually cause more harm than good.

Now what’s so different about these admonitions for any good lesson or unit activity that you have ever designed?

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