Teaching Strategies

Simulations Quick Start

How to Plan a Simulation:

Advice from the BC Simulations Faculty Cohort

This guide features ideas and strategies for those interested in incorporating simulations into their teaching practice.  These principles are adapted from the practice and theorization of simulations generated by the 2017-2018 “Simulations in the Classroom” Faculty Cohort.  While simulations can vary according to class context and take many different forms, success always depends on effective planning ahead of time and debriefing afterwards.  For more information about using simulations in teaching, please contact centerforteaching@bc.edu.  

Before: Planning

  • While this guide is not prescriptive, it lists practices other instructors have found helpful in working with simulations in their teaching.  These are all things to consider BEFORE you’ve introduced the simulation to the class. Fore more information about using simulations in the classroom, please email centerforteaching@bc.edu.
  • Identify Learning Objectives
    • Clear, focused skills that students will attain through the simulation
  • Brainstorm: Use these learning objectives to determine form simulation will take
    • Will you use technology? Will the activity be face to face?
    • Will students work in teams or on their own?
  • Choose your role: Will you facilitate or observe, and to what extent will you intervene?
  • Create a practical plan. Things to consider:
    • Logistics – space, communication, prep work
    • Sequence of activities – flow of content, student engagement
    • Timing – one day vs. multiple days, including time for adjustment and assessment
  • Plan for assessment:
    • Analyse the tasks involved in the simulation, and find a variety of low-stakes opportunities for assessment. Many low-stakes tasks (with or without grading) will encourage students to take risks in their application of new skills.
    • What will you assess? Consider assessing both process (student performance within the simulation: collaboration, preparation, groupwork, participation, etc.) and product (graded work that is based on the simulation: briefing papers, PowerPoints, student reflections, etc.). You could also include peer input if the simulation involves collaborative work.
    • Create guides or rubrics and share them with students ahead of time. Clear communication makes assessment efficient and consistent and guides students as they prepare for and carry out the simulation.  
    • Test your activity before you try it with students. It’s also a great idea to talk through your plans with your colleagues or in a confidential consultation with the CTE (centerforteaching@bc.edu).  

After: Debriefing

  • A 3-step model of 1.) reflection, 2.) analysis, and 3.) application can direct students to attend to what is important and learn constructively from their experience.
    • Consider using different formats for these different steps. Potential formats include: written vs. oral responses, individual vs. group-work, feedback surveys, plus/delta charts, etc.
  • Dedicate class time to debrief the simulation. Roughly 50% of time spent in simulation should be spent on debriefing.
  • Explicitly framing your summary as your unique perspective, open the classroom debrief with a narrative account of the simulation to offer a starting point  for student reaction and reflection. Then, invite students to share their experience and take-aways from the simulation.  This can help students to synthesize their experience in relation to simulation learning goals and larger course objectives.

A good summary of the 3-step debrief process was given to the Faculty Cohort by Dr. Erin Baumann. You can view her presentation slides below:

Dr. Erin Baumann, SLATE, Harvard Kennedy School