SchoolSims Best Practices

Welcome to the SchoolSims Best Practices page, your go-to resource for discovering effective educational strategies and approaches. Here, we delve into research-backed techniques, expert insights, and practical guidance to help educators, administrators, and students excel in their respective roles.

Whether seeking innovative teaching methods, classroom management tips, leadership development strategies, or student engagement ideas, this page empowers you with the knowledge and tools to elevate your educational practices using SchoolSims simulations.

We invite you to download the simulation overviews to get a glimpse of the simulations available in our library. These overviews briefly describe each simulation, outlining its objectives, content coverage, and critical features. By downloading the overviews, you will better understand how our simulations can enrich the learning experience.

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Best Practices Guide

Below is the Best Practices guide for SchoolSims, which provides recommendations for using the platform effectively. There is a section for current and aspiring school leaders, teachers, and counselors. By following these best practices for facilitating SchoolSims simulations, educators and facilitators can create a dynamic learning environment that enhances participants’ skills, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities. The combination of preparation, clear learning goals, reflective discussions, timely feedback, collaboration, transfer of learning, and continuous improvement ensures a rich and impactful learning experience with SchoolSims simulations.

Preparing Participants

Before engaging in a SchoolSims simulation, it is crucial to provide participants with appropriate background information and context. This can include briefing them on the scenario’s objectives, providing relevant materials or readings, and ensuring they have a clear understanding of the simulated environment they will be interacting with. Preparing participants beforehand helps establish a solid foundation for their engagement and sets the stage for meaningful learning experiences.

Establishing Learning Goals

Clearly defining learning goals is essential for successful facilitation of SchoolSims simulations. Educators and facilitators should outline the specific knowledge, skills, or competencies that participants are expected to develop or demonstrate through their engagement with the virtual scenarios. This clarity of purpose ensures that participants remain focused and can actively work towards achieving the intended learning outcomes.

Guiding Reflection and Discussion

One of the strengths of SchoolSims simulations is the opportunity they provide for reflection and discussion. Facilitators play a vital role in guiding these processes. After participants have completed the simulation, facilitators can lead reflective activities that encourage individuals to analyze their decision-making, consider alternative approaches, and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Open-ended questions, group discussions, or journaling can be effective strategies for facilitating meaningful reflection and promoting deeper learning.

Providing Timely Feedback

Feedback is an integral part of the learning process, and facilitators should strive to provide timely and constructive feedback to participants. SchoolSims simulations often include built-in feedback mechanisms, but facilitators can enhance this process by offering additional insights and observations. Personalized feedback that highlights strengths, identifies areas for improvement, and offers specific suggestions for growth can significantly enhance the learning experience and encourage participants to refine their skills and strategies.

Encouraging Collaboration

Collaboration among participants can greatly enrich the SchoolSims experience. Facilitators can create opportunities for participants to work together, discuss their approaches, share insights, and learn from each other’s perspectives. Collaborative activities, such as small group discussions or role-playing exercises, can foster a sense of community, promote diverse thinking, and deepen understanding of the simulated scenarios.

Reflecting on Transfer of Learning

To ensure the transfer of learning from the SchoolSims simulations to real-world contexts, facilitators should encourage participants to reflect on how the knowledge and skills gained can be applied in their professional practice or daily lives. Engaging in post-simulation discussions, action planning, or follow-up activities that connect the simulated experiences to real-world scenarios helps participants make meaningful connections and solidify their learning.

Continuous Improvement and Iteration

Facilitating SchoolSims simulations is an iterative process. Facilitators should regularly seek feedback from participants to assess the effectiveness of the simulation experience and make necessary adjustments for future sessions. Reflecting on facilitation practices, evaluating participant outcomes, and incorporating insights gained from each iteration contribute to ongoing improvement and refinement of the facilitation process.

David De Jong, Ed.D., Dean of the College of Education at Dakota State University

“I have included SchoolSims to support graduate instruction in several principal and superintendent preparation programs. School leaders were surveyed after participating in four or more educational simulations. We found a unanimously positive perception from participants regarding their preparedness for leadership. Overall, the school leaders reported increased confidence to handle real-life situations after engaging in the simulations and a deeper perspective to think critically about issues they will be presented within the field.”

Best Practices | Current & Aspiring School Leaders
Aspiring Leaders

Aspiring leaders need experience as leaders, and SchoolSims provides aspiring leaders relevant experiences that help them grasp the complexity of these leadership roles. One of the best ways to use SchoolSims with aspiring leaders is to establish monthly meetings for one hour each month. Invite a group of between 2 – 50 aspiring leaders to these monthly meetings and lead them through one simulation per month. The following is a schedule of recommended simulations for aspiring leaders:

Novice Leaders

Novice leaders need experience in the intricacies of school leadership, and SchoolSims can provide these experiences in a safe environment. For example, leadership development personnel could invite between 2 – 50 novice leaders to their monthly meetings and finish these meetings with a simulation that lasts approximately one hour. At each decision point, the facilitators could point out opportunities for novice leaders to reach out to a mentor principal to ask for advice on how to lead in that situation. When novice leaders experience the power of reaching out to a mentor, they will be less likely to feel as though they are the only school leader facing the difficult decisions before them. The following is a list of recommended simulations for each month:

Experienced Leaders

Many district-level leaders find it challenging to provide relevant and engaging professional learning for their experienced leaders. One solution to that challenge is for a leadership director, assistant superintendent, or superintendent to facilitate one School Sim at the end of monthly admin meetings to build leadership capacity amongst their experienced leaders. SchoolSims provide natural pauses at each decision point, which are excellent opportunities for experienced leaders to discuss how their experiences shape their current decisions or how their implicit biases came into play during a decision point. The following is a list of recommended simulations for each month:

Best Practices | Teachers and Teacher Candidates

Many teachers have a natural curiosity for what happens when the principal’s door is closed. Teachers who experience SchoolSims tend to come away with a broader perspective of what happens at the building-level, promoting a more positive culture and climate.

Teacher Candidates

Incorporating the SchoolSims Simulation Library into your teacher candidate programs will allow you to provide experiential learning opportunities in a safe space, just like a pilot obtains using a flight simulator. Simulations enable participants to tackle difficult situations, make decisions, and deal with the consequences of those actions in a safe environment, gaining practice that they can tap into when necessary. Our simulation categories include topics such as equity, social-emotional issues, difficult conversations, and more, all while aligning with CAEP and InTASC professional standards.

Best Practices | Current and Aspiring School Counselors
Current School Counselors

Providing school counselors with simulations for manufacturing experiences will allow them to practice dealing with challenging scenarios in a safe space and strive to implement comprehensive, developmental programming addressing student needs. School counselors understand that students should equally demonstrate growth in their career, academic, and social/emotional domains to succeed. Simulations can be used synchronously, asynchronously, or both. Simulations are proven to improve judgment and decision-making so that school counselors are ready for the challenges of the job. It is essential in the field to have open conversations and provide guidance and support to the current and aspiring leaders of the counseling profession.

Aspiring School Counselors

Simulations enable aspiring counselor students to tackle difficult situations, make decisions, and deal with the consequences of those actions in a safe environment, gaining practice that they can tap into when necessary. Start building experience for aspiring counselors in dealing with bullying, student performance, school safety, and more using CounselorSims in your higher education program.

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Ken Spero (President & Founder)

FAQ | "What are the different ways to use SchoolSims?"

When facilitating SchoolSims simulations, several key considerations can help maximize the learning experience and ensure participants get the most out of the virtual scenarios. This section will explore the best ways to facilitate SchoolSims simulations to create an engaging and effective learning environment.

Is it better to facilitate SchoolSims simulations synchronously or asynchronously?

Most facilitators prefer synchronous because of the natural back-and-forth communication between people in the same room. However, when SchoolSims are used asynchronously, the aspiring, novice, or experienced school leaders feel more freedom to repeat the simulation three or even four times to try new decisions and learn from decisions they may not ever choose in real life. When school leaders make decisions within a simulation in the same room as their peers, they tend to make decisions that won’t make them look foolish in front of their peers.

Are SchoolSims simulations better experienced in person or via video conferencing like Zoom?

SchoolSims are better in person because of the natural back-and-forth communication between people in the same room. However, some facilitators of SchoolSims like Zoom better because Zoom offers polls (quick results at each decision point) and breakout rooms (less distraction than a room of people talking).

Enhancing Professional Development with SchoolSims

Including SchoolSims simulation software in your professional development, teacher candidate, or educational leadership program will result in a deeper experience catalog for current and aspiring school leaders, improved retention of K-12 leaders, and a positive impact on teacher and student performance and the communities they serve.