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Monday, September 30, 2013

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: How to Debrief a Simulation

The debrief is the most critical part of the simulation experience. Here, participants step back from the experience, reflect, and start to understand the significance that the course has for their lives and work. The instructor's manual for the simulation can be invaluable in planning the debrief.

Provide sufficient time

Nothing is more important than having sufficient time for the debrief.

Provide optimal room setup for debriefing

Unless the manual specifies otherwise, the best setup for an effective debrief is a tight horseshoe with you sitting at the opening. The intimacy created naturally facilitates communication and participation, and makes it easy for everyone to be heard and seen, which is important since body language can often be very significant.

Coach the leader

Coach leaders to listen carefully and to wait until others have weighed in before doing so themselves to keep from influencing the group. If a leader chooses to observe during the simulation, he should only observe during the debrief.

Reframe winning and losing

If participants feel that they have been unsuccessful in the simulation, they may feel dejected, and as a result, be less receptive to the learning that will take place during the debrief. To avoid this, you should communicate clearly that the success of the experience is not about the outcome of the simulation but about the learning that emerges from the debrief.

Provide time for reflection

This is important to all learners, but especially for introverted personalities who need time to reflect before they can comfortably share. Encourage journaling to capture thoughts and questions.

Ask good questions

An effective facilitator must ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions. Be careful to avoid leading questions that convey judgments or conclusions. For example: "Were you demonstrating a culture of risk aversion when no one challenged Joe's ideas during the redesign?" A more open-ended question is: "No one seemed to challenge Joe's suggestions. Why?"

Manage the naysayers

Occasionally, participants may have trouble extrapolating the simulation problem to their broader environment. They may say that they see no relevance to their actual work setting. Rather than defend the simulation, turn to a flip chart and create two headings: how the simulation is similar to their work, and how it is different. Give the participants time to fill out both lists. Next, acknowledge the differences, and then mark a big "X" through this list.

Keep the focus on the group's learning

Participants and facilitators alike will experience different observations during the simulation. It is important to use the majority of the allotted debrief time to assist the group in the discovery of their learning, not yours as the facilitator. If you choose to draw the group out on a sensitive issue, be sure to allow sufficient time for discussion. It is unwise and unfair to do so if there isn't enough time.

Encourage different perspectives

One of the most valuable parts of the debrief process is the realization that each person experiences people and situations differently. Encourage participants to share their perceptions even if they are different from what others share. If people are agreeing too readily, pose the simple question, "Is anyone willing to share a different perspective?"

Help participants make connections to the workplace

Once drawn into the simulation experience, participants will forget that they are not operating in the "real world." Throughout the debrief, take every opportunity to pose questions and facilitate discussion that will enable participants to draw parallels between their experience and the workplace.

Use creative tools to add value to the debrief

There are many creative tools that can enrich the debrief experience, including:
  • Energy or interest charts that ask each participant to chart his energy or interest levels at different times during the simulation
  • Relationship maps that create a visual representation of basic work groups (functions) in the simulation and how they perceive their relationships to other work groups in terms of importance, amount of contact, and influence
  • Graffiti walls on which participants draw symbols to indicate reactions or feelings throughout the simulation
  • Metaphors that draw comparisons between participants' experiences and team dynamics
  • Visual Explorer, through which participants can select pictures to represent the experience.

Exercise good judgment in timing

Each simulation has a prescribed debrief process outlined in the facilitation guide. Try to end a debrief session while there is still some energy in the room, especially if there will be subsequent debriefs for the simulation.

Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. For help in selecting the right simulation, pairing a simulation with an assessment, or learning how to become certified to use any of our simulations, visit our website at www.DiscoveryLearning.com or use our Contact Page. We have compiled extensive data to inform us about the best simulation and assessment instruments for different circumstances.
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This post was extracted from an article by Chris Musselwhite,  Sue Kennedy, and Nancy Probst, originally published in T+D magazine (American Society for Training and Development).

Monday, September 16, 2013

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: Best Practices for Simulation Delivery

Set up the framework

At the beginning of the simulation session, as facilitator, you should communicate why participants have been asked to participate in the learning experience and the expected outcomes, but keep it short and get into the simulation as quickly as possible.

Establish ground rules 

It's important to establish ground rules for what behavior is expected during the simulation. Have participants add to the list, and invite them to sanction a confidentiality agreement to enable open, honest dialogue among the group.

Communicate the difference between simulations and role play

Participants who may be familiar with role playing need to be encouraged to participate in the simulated experience as they would in the real world, as opposed to "acting" as they think someone in such a role would.

Observe, observe, observe

Throughout the simulation, the facilitator's primary role is to observe behavior throughout the simulation and take notes for questions in the debrief process. Do not judge any behavior. Just observe, and note the influence the behavior has on the group, individual participants, or the simulation. The smallest observations can be valuable to the debrief process.

Keep a straight face

Avoid conveying verbal and nonverbal cues. When grappling with complex problems, participants will look to you as the facilitator for reactions as they make decisions and take action.


Know when to intervene

Good simulations provide very engaging problems and can feel very real. The facilitator needs to be alert to sudden changes in behavior and emerging conflict. If necessary, discreetly pull the participant aside and give her a reality check by asking if she is okay or why she appears angry or withdrawn.

What additional tips or comments can you share for delivering effective simulations?


Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. For help in selecting the right simulation, pairing a simulation with an assessment, or learning how to become certified to use any of our simulations, visit our website at www.DiscoveryLearning.com or use our Contact Page. We have compiled extensive data to inform us about the best simulation and assessment instruments for different circumstances.
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This post was extracted from an article by Chris Musselwhite,  Sue Kennedy, and Nancy Probst, originally published in T+D magazine (American Society for Training and Development).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: How to Select a Simulation

Planning makes perfect

Your responsibility as a simulation facilitator is to fully consider the participants, the learning objectives, and how the learning will be assimilated into work processes. A key factor to consider is your skill and experience level, which must be matched to the complexity of the simulation.

Unlike the structured and predictable traditional training classroom, simulations play out differently with every group, making skilled facilitation essential. If the simulation is being used as part of a team development or organizational change process, it can be helpful to pair it with an appropriate self-assessment instrument. These instruments provide more opportunity for introspection and enhanced self-awareness, and should be considered during the selection process.

Know the participants

You should know the group's makeup, form, and function, as well as their previous experience with simulations. Simulations can be used to do an initial assessment of a group's developmental needs, but it is important for the participants to understand this intention.

Know the simulation

Be the expert on the simulation, and fully utilize the facilitator guide. Plan deployment to achieve the learning objectives in the allotted time, and walk through it.

Avoid simulations with one right answer

Simulations with one right answer are not realistic. They shift the focus more to the ability to analyze data. The best simulations present a problem-solving scenario that offers the opportunity to analyze, decide, perform, experience consequences, and then make adjustments. Complex problems rarely have one right answer. The ability to build support for a solution may be as important as the solution itself.

Make a checklist

Order materials; check supplies; and confirm number of participants, equipment, and shipments. If computers are involved, test the software on each device.

Plan the facility

Room setup is complex with many simulations, and every simulation has different space requirements and configuration options, so check your facilitator guide for room setup options, space needs, and other details before booking the facility. Make sure that the person setting up the room understands your needs.

Plan the timeline

Allow sufficient time for reading materials considering learners' different reading speeds. In daylong simulations, have the participants manage their time, including breaks, and provide the option of a working lunch.

Invite the participants

No one likes to feel hijacked from their day, particularly senior executives. Considering the organization's cultural norms, avoid this perception with a personalized invitation informing them of the purpose of the session, its duration, logistics, and expected outcomes.

Coach the leader

When an intact group's leader will be a participant in the simulation, provide coaching on how he should participate. A group may look to its leader to answer questions during the simulation or to share his experience first during the debrief. In both instances, doing so can significantly influence subsequent contributions from the group and should be discouraged.
Coach the leader to listen carefully and wait until others have weighed in before he does. This helps to ensure that others will honestly share their ideas and perceptions without being influenced. If the leader chooses to be an observer during the simulation, this role should continue through the debrief. The organization and the leaders should be made aware that having the leader observe can be a potential obstacle to full participation by the group, as they may feel that they are being assessed.

Coordinate schedules and facilitation styles

When group size necessitates running concurrent simulations, provide each group with a similar experience through the coordination of schedules and facilitation styles. Generally, it is best to have separate debriefs for each group, but if time allows, a large group debrief may be added. This allows everyone to benefit from each other's experiences and insight, which may be relative to the organization as a whole.

Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. For help in selecting the right simulation, pairing a simulation with an assessment, or learning how to become certified to use any of our simulations, visit our website at www.DiscoveryLearning.com or use our Contact Page. We have compiled extensive data to inform us about the best simulation and assessment instruments for different circumstances.
______________________________

This post was extracted from an article by Chris Musselwhite,  Sue Kennedy, and Nancy Probst, originally published in T+D magazine (American Society for Training and Development).

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