Simulations vary from the realistic flight simulator, through the pared-down role-play, to the stylised reconstruction of a business situation on a spreadsheet. It is not so much the external circumstances which are simulated, as the decision-making, skill and practice of the practitioner working with them. Simulations are special cases of games.
- Wherever there is a need to move closer to the reality of practice: where the text-based case-study does not convey the urgency of decision-making, for example.
- Wherever there is a need to move away from the reality of practice: on competence-based programmes, for example, there may be little opportunity (one hopes) for direct real-life observation of dealing with an aggressive client or patient, health or safety emergency, or particular kind of equipment fault.
- None, as long the demands of the situation are commensurate with the skill of the learner.
- Given that what you may want to simulate may be something which is dangerous in real life, it should go without saying that it will require special attention to health and safety precautions.
- The actual assessment, as ever, needs to be based on clear principles, with established criteria. Is it enough, for example, for the student to produce the desired result, or are there process issues to be observed as well? Should the event be recorded on video, so as to have a permanent record?
- For formative assessment, such recording is desirable when practicable, and immediacy of feedback is important.
- There is more scope for the use of simulation than you
might think. Have you thought of:
- "In-tray" exercises, in which the practitioner is faced with a pile of memos, reports, telephone messages and emails, such as she might find on her return from holiday, and a set period within which to prioritise them and respond appropriately?
- "Alternative history" exercises: the participant is presented with a (fabricated) article or report which presents research findings which are at variance with the conventional wisdom on a subject: he then has to prepare a response outlining how such evidence—if true—would impact on what we already think we know about the subject?
- Decision mazes in which everyone starts with a case-study, and several alternative courses of action: each choice leads to a different outcome, which is described together with further alternatives, and so on?