Simulations Essay

1695 words - 7 pages


"What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I understand."
Confucius, 451 BC


As young children, we all learn by doing. Toddlers learn to walk on their own with their parents standing by as guides, providing a safe environment that makes it possible for the child to learn. When a child enters the "formal education" system, unfortunately this rich environment of learning by doing often disappears. The education system is still stuck in the industrial age with classrooms more often designed for teaching rather than for learning purposes.

To return to the learning by doing stage, enter simulations. A simulation is an instructional strategy that offers the opportunity to learn in a realistic environment and practice problem-solving skills without danger. Simulation is a teaching method solidly rooted in statistical evidence that learners retain more information by doing rather than by just reading or listening (Salopek,1998). The first simulation, simulating a battle between two nations, was developed more than 1500 years ago – the game of chess (May, 1997).

When most people think of a simulation, what they are really envisioning is a simulator – an inhabitable environment such as a flight simulator to train pilots. A simulation doesn’t have to be so complex. It can be a simple set of cards or a script such as Desert Survival Situation, a decision simulation. Generally in a simulation, a scenario is presented, the student is required to act, the student reacts, and the system changes in response to this action.

Simulations are thought to be effective because they are highly motivating. Such activities also encourage students to be persistent, creative, and to become team players (Cairns). Some advantages of simulations are the development of critical thinking, creative thinking, predicting outcomes, and analyzing alternative strategies, all coupled with the ability to make decisions in a safe environment (May, 1997). A well-designed simulation meets all of John Keller’s goals in the ARCS model (attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction). It presents a problem to be solved, allows the learner to make choices, shows the consequences of those choices, and builds confidence in the learner when the problem is mastered.

There are five major characteristics of simulations:

Simulations are problem-based units of learning that are set in motion by a particular task, issue, policy, crisis, or problem. The problems to be addressed by the participant may be either implicit or explicit, depending on the nature of the simulation.
The issues inherent in the simulation are not textbook problems or questions in which answers are cut and dried and determined quickly.
Participants carry out functions associated with their roles and the settings in which they find themselves.
The outcomes of the simulation are not determined by chance or luck. Instead, participants...

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