Asking and Answering Questions to Deepen Student Understanding

Simply because one student has offered a correct answer does not mean other students are on the same page. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein discusses how he responds to student questions and responses in a way that invites the whole class into the conversation. “Tell me more about that,” is one of his go-to responses to gently probe students’ understanding and demystify their thought process for other learners in the room. “If they tell me the right answer, I don’t always validate it,” Schwartzstein explains, “because I’ll still turn to someone else and say...

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Debriefing the Emotional Experience of the Simulation

When the simulation has formally ended, this does not mean the learning is over. Debriefing the simulation experience with students is a critical component of achieving instructors’ learning objectives. More intense than a paper case, role plays and simulations also stir emotions and raise stress levels among participants. Given this, taking time to debrief the anxieties and emotions simulations raise is imperative. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein, Jeffrey William, and Homeostasis I students discuss the importance of acknowledging the emotional component of the...

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Defining Strategic Roles for Simulation Facilitators

As an expert in one’s field, it can be challenging for instructors to move to the periphery of the classroom and let students take the lead. Not doing so, however, can impede students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Fortunately, acting as a facilitator in simulations does not necessarily mean instructors stand idly by. In this video, Jeffrey William discusses how instructors in Homeostasis I find ways to guide students’ thinking without overpowering them by posing questions, issuing subtle hints, and purposefully walking away. Considering the role of...

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Engaging the Whole Class Through Strategic Role Assignment

When a simulation or role play requires the direct involvement of only a small subset of students, the rest of the class may find themselves disconnected from the action. Even students within the subset of chief participants can become disengaged if their individual role is ill-defined. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein and Jeffrey William discuss how strategic role assignments can maintain engagement and “involve the crowd.” In this simulation specifically, the main actors in the simulation fulfill roles that mirror those on a hospital floor, while other...

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Normalizing Uncertainty Through Simulations

Most fields, especially those that involve working with people, are not nearly as straightforward as textbooks might have students believe. However, many students find confronting uncertainty and not getting the “right answer” to be a discomforting experience. In Homeostasis I, Richard Schwartzstein and Jeffrey William see simulations as powerful exercises to get students used to navigating uncertainty. Through modeling, questioning, and devising scenarios without clear-cut answers, Schwartzstein and William emphasize to students the importance of “being okay with...

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Planning for Unpredictability in Simulations

Teacher-driven lessons afford instructors the luxury (and limitations) of a predictable plan. By contrast, the learning that emerges out of simulations is evolving, spontaneous, and contingent on the specific set of individuals participating. For facilitators, these circumstances require being open to students’ thinking and flexible with lesson plans, without letting efficiency or structure go by the wayside. Richard Schwartzstein calls the “unscripted” nature of simulations the challenge and fun in their facilitation. Noting that “no two sessions are exactly the...

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Designing a Simulation Session

Simulation scenarios are carefully chosen in order to build on and complicate textbook concepts in realistic settings. In this way, Homeostasis I is a “flipped classroom”: students prepare and learn concepts independently while time in class presents opportunities to put those concepts into practice and synthesize them during simulation-inspired discussions. Richard Schwartzstein underscores this element of transfer as critical to simulation design. Accordingly, the concepts students confront in the learning exercise might be “foundationally the same” but presented...

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Using Simulations in the Case-Based Collaborative Learning Classroom

In contrast to paper cases, simulations in the classroom push students to enact what they have learned. In Homeostasis I, instructors immerse groups of students in high-stress, realistic hospital scenarios. The exercise forces student groups to collectively come to a consensus about treatment and quickly, all the while navigating the stress that accompanies taking care of patients. From the instructors’ end, engineering such a learning space requires hitting what Richard Schwartzstein calls the “sweet spot,” in which students are agitated enough to make...

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Contextualizing learning with guest speakers

Though simulations may effectively replicate real-world situations and problems, they are still just that: simulations. Accordingly, finding ways to reinforce the idea that similar situations are being experienced by real practitioners in the field becomes critical. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team discuss how their negotiations course enlists guest speakers to come speak to the class. These speakers contextualize the skills and concepts students learn and enact in class and share their first-hand experiences with similar problems in the field. 

Incorporating humor to ease tensions in active learning

Well-timed, appropriate humor can provide relief in tense classroom environments. Humor can be especially critical in active learning environments, where students’ immersion can heighten anxiety and stress. In this video, Mandell, his teaching assistants, and students discuss the central role that humor plays in whole group sessions following simulations. After the intensity of the learning activity and the constructive criticism of “hot” debriefs, humor becomes a helpful tool to keep students engaged and allow them to reflect on mistakes with some levity.

Presenting simulation data to spark discussion and reflection

Failing to debrief after an intense simulation is a missed opportunity, but when simulation debriefs fail to draw on specifics from the activity, this can also short circuit discussion and reflection. Accordingly, providing fresh, relevant data from a recently conducted simulation can deepen debrief conversations and offer students concrete details to drive their reflections. In this video, Mandell and his teaching assistant share both quantitative and qualitative data from the simulation to enliven and enhance the full group debrief. Calling upon specific groups to...

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Synthesizing simulation takeaways through lecture

If simulations plunk students right in the middle of the action, what is the role of the instructor? Though instructors in simulation-based classrooms typically play the role of facilitators rather than lecturers, a strategically placed lecture gives the disciplinary expert in the room a chance to distill key conceptual takeaways from student-centered activities. This video shows how Brian Mandell commences full group sessions by delivering a mini-lecture that responds directly to what students just experienced. The analytic lecture aims to, in Mandell’s words, provide students...

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Giving peer feedback promptly with "hot" debriefs

Though simulations can be powerful learning experiences on their own, students’ learning is enhanced when instructors give them adequate time to process what they just experienced. Particularly when pressure runs high, fostering a structured space for students to debrief is critical. In Brian Mandell’s class, immediately after simulations conclude, student groups offer each member feedback about their performance in the activity. With the simulation still fresh in students’ minds, “hot” debriefs become candid spaces in which students provide one another specific, constructive support....

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Leveraging the teaching team in a simulation

The more complex a simulation becomes, the more important a well-organized teaching team is for an instructor. Having multiple teaching assistants allows lead instructors to delegate responsibilities procedurally and purposefully. In this video, Mandell’s teaching team reflects on some of the different roles they play throughout simulations. These roles range from gathering data for the whole class debriefs after simulations to coaching students individually as they negotiate. 

Preparing students for a simulation

Complex, multi-party simulations require careful preparation. With so many moving parts, students should have some understanding of what to expect and how to appropriately prepare. In this video, Mandell and his teaching team describe the materials and instructions students receive before simulations. While all groups receive general instructions which provide broad details about the case, each group member also receives his or her own confidential instructions outlining individual interests, allies, and adversaries. To prepare, students study both sets of instructions closely,...

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