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discreetly pull the participant aside and give her a reality check by asking if she is okay or why she appears angry or withdrawn.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 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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