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Using Simulations to Manufacture Experience for School Leaders

July 10, 2020

On this page, we will discuss how simulations essentially accelerate time and help to "manufacture experience" for current and aspiring K - 12 school leaders. You will see how simulations improve judgment and decision-making as well as read comments by those who have benefited from using simulations in professional development and/or educational leadership programs. Finally, we will discuss how simulations can be used in both synchronous vs. asynchronous environments, including remote, virtual learning. We hope you take the time to read this page and benefit from its content.

What are the benefits of professional development?

Including simulations in your professional development program has the below benefits.

BenefitsHow SchoolSims Helps
It can sharpen your knowledgeThe SchoolSims simulation library has a wide variety of relatable topics developed in partnership with K-12 districts and higher education institutions. Going through those topics as a group or on your own helps to manufacture experience, deal with the consequences of difficult choices, and allows you to fail in a safe place.
It develops your skills and offers the opportunity to learn something newBeing able to choose options that are not ideal and working to recover from them is critical. There is rarely a perfect option in real-life and our simulations are built with that in mind. How can you please all stakeholders when they have such different agendas?
It makes employees feel satisfiedSimulations allow for incredible engagement, discussion, and collaboration. Whether done remotely, in-person, as a group or as a project, the opportunity for discussing the decisions a participant makes and doesn’t make, creates for an incredible learning opportunity.
It provides you access to the most recent advancements in your industry nicheSimulated experiences provide real-world experience in a safe place. They allow you to hear why peers make certain decisions and discuss the outcomes. Simulations build your Experience Portfolio and essentially accelerate your growth as a leader. Experience is the Best Teacher!
It enhances your school's reputationThere is a direct correlation between strong school leaders and student achievement. The SchoolSims simulation library allows you to safely manufacture experience rather than wait for scenarios to transpire in real-life when so much is at stake.
It expands your professional networkSimulation used during professional development sessions or in educational leadership programs create a collaborative and engaging environment for peers and colleagues across districts and programs. You will learn how and why other leaders make decisions and will add to your Experience Portfolio so when the a similar arises, you have past experiences to pull from.
It attracts more qualified candidates and bolsters your retention strategySimulations make professional development fun and engaging. Having simulations in your professional development or Ed Leadership program helps with leader and faculty retention and the building of principal pipelines. See our client testimonials below.
It re-energizes ideas for your projects and leadershipSimulations improve critical thinking and decision-making. They will open your mind to new ideas and new ways of solving problems.
It makes succession planning easierCreating a principal pipeline is critical. Keeping strong leaders in your district is easier when aspiring leaders know that their growth is seen as an investment not just in their career but also the overall performance of the faculty and students.
It offers more benefits to the organization as a whole.We hear how schools struggle with finding effective professional development. Money is expended on conferences and consultants who preach how to do things vs. allowing current and aspiring schools leaders to experience scenarios for themselves. Simulations allow participants to feel the stress of a difficult situation, make the most of the options that are not ideal, and endure the outcomes of decisions that never please everyone.

Simulations as a part of Professional Development or Educational Leadership Programs

improve school leader judgment and decision making

Benefits of Learning Simulations

True To Life

The most effective method to learn is through experience. The problem with traditional experience is that it takes time to acquire, however simulations accelerate the development of experience as they offer a chance to experience authentic scenarios that depict actual events.  They are an economic and efficient way to get practice critical thinking, learn from mistakes, and therefore make better choices in real-life.

Branching Out

There are not always rights and wrongs when it comes to human behavior and often different approaches lead to different key skills one needs to master. When simulating a scenario, whether it’s for learning about a new product, practicing new concepts, or any other learning experience, it’s valuable to be able to personalize the experience. Simulations create individualized learning opportunities by branching to different scenarios according to responses. Consider the employee who needs to practice the technical features of a new product when dealing with an angry client versus the employee who is lacking practice on the customer retention side. Both may start the simulation at the same point but will learn different things that the learning system was able to make personal for them.

Repetition

To ensure a good learning experience and valuable learning results, there is a need to repeat content. However, experiential learning has proven to outperform simply reading and reviewing the same content when it comes to retention.  Simulations come to your rescue. By simulating scenarios, content can be repeated but in an engaging way that brings an interesting flavor to the learning goal. Think about new software adoption at a company. Simulation usage can create another layer of content. One can start off by telling employees about the new software, later quizzing them, and finally asking them to be a part of a simulation about the new software. This complete toolbox creates a richer learning environment and increases the chances of knowledge retention.

Technology

While simulation is a technique, today we have the technology to put it into action efficiently. New technologies enable us to offer web-based simulations with advanced, mobile-friendly tools that personalize the entire journey for each employee.  Finally, new simulation technology enables us to have fast and accurate results regarding each employee’s progression so it is possible to track and optimize the learning content and environment.

Simulated Experiences Make for Effective Professional Development

Educators all over the country can vouch that professional development is the foundation of career development and is critical to the advancement of children in the classroom. EL Takeaways and ASCD have put together 7 signs of professional learning that current and aspiring leaders have taken from professional development experiences over their careers. From using videos innovatively to enhance teacher-driven PD and coaching and mentoring, professional development is not a one-size-fits-all learning experience and is most successful when educators collaborate and learn from each other.
7 signs of professional learning

When is PD effective?

The demands of teaching are constantly changing as technology advancements make their way into the education system, new ways of practice evolve. By providing professional development, participants are able to adapt and add knowledge that allows not only for career advancement but for the advancement of children in the classroom. However, not all PD is effective. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Less than a third of teachers found any of the activities they accessed “very useful,” and over a third of novice teachers felt that working with a mentor was only a little or not at all helpful.” So, what exactly makes PD effective?

Recent research (Butler et al., 2004) has shown that effective professional development includes creating classroom content, modeling techniques for teachers to use in their classrooms, and feedback on lessons (Harris, Graham, and Adkins, 2015). The Learning Policy Institute reviewed “35 methodologically rigorous studies that have demonstrated a positive link between teacher professional development, teaching practices, and student outcomes.” According to these studies, effective professional development incorporates most, if not all of the following:

  1. Content Focused
  2. Incorporates active learning
  3. Supports collaboration
  4. Uses models of effective practice
  5. Provides coaching and expert support
  6. Offers feedback and reflection
  7. Is of sustained duration

When considering these elements, SchoolSims hits the mark. The objective of a sim is to provide an experience that encourages participants to exercise critical thinking and use judgment in making decisions. Within the sim, they experience the consequences of their choices are provided an opportunity for feedback and reflection. Because the goal is to have an experience rather than to provide the right answer, participants are encouraged to disagree with what is presented within the sim. This forces them to think and defend their “why”.  Dissecting the “why” in solving problems of practice is where critical thinking skills develop.  Sim users have acknowledged skill development and have conformed that using sims for PD is not only effective but engaging, collaborative, and fun.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning Benefits

Synchronous
Asynchronous
Interaction between participantsNo interaction between participants
Exchange of knowledge and experience between participantsParticipants can learn on their own time and schedule
Real-time feedback for the instructorDelayed feedback for the instructor
Training happens on a fixed scheduleLess work for trainers and HR managers

Who Has Benefitted?

“As Coordinator of the NJ Leaders to Leaders Program (NJL2L), the sole state-approved mentoring program for new school leaders in New Jersey, I have found the Educational Leadership Simulations to be a valuable resource in the professional learning of thousands of new and veteran educational leaders. The current and real-life simulations provide opportunities for rich discussion around relevant educational scenarios in which teams of leaders explore a variety of decision pathways that target essentials such as team building, legal, moral and ethical standards, and individual and group decision making. Through these collaborative conversations, the knowledge, expertise, and leadership skills of practitioners are strengthened. Alignment to the Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSEL Standards ensures that the needs of all learning leaders are met.”

 

– James J. Sarto, Ed.S.

Coordinator of NJ Leaders to Leaders Program (NJL2L), NJPSA/FEA

 

“I find that though I can often come up with a quick decision on an issue, because of scenarios I worked within the SchoolSims program, I pause without rushing to the answer and carefully consider multiple options and the potential outcomes of each one. This has helped me become more thorough in my research, more thoughtful in my judgment, and more considerate in my communication before I make a decision and share it with others.”

 

– Stephanie C. Huckabee

Assistant Principal for Instruction, Chapin Middle School

 

“The PA Principals Association has been utilizing the SchoolSims simulations for the past three years. In an effort to provide relevant and engaging professional development opportunities for our members, we have used the library of simulations to conduct workshops for school leaders across the state. By using the simulations we can engage individuals in the thought processes behind the decisions they make while unpacking differing points of view. The rich discussions that occur during these small and large group sessions are very powerful and enlightening. Our workshop evaluations on the use of these simulations have consistently received outstanding ratings.”

 

– Dr. Paul M Healey

Executive Director, PA Principals Association

 

“SchoolSims simulations is the very tool that we have needed to bring more clarity to how various perplexities and problem-solving techniques can be utilized to handle situations in a calm and methodical manner. Educators are responsible for developing the all-important minds of our young people. Principalships of today are more complex than ever before. Like the doctor who attends a residence is guided through multiple real world simulations before they are released to practice medicine, our principals need to experience real world simulations such as these to ameliorate the teaching and learning minds of our diverse communities. The simulations captivated our participants. Notably, it appeared that students enjoyed that part of our agenda the most.”

 

– Ruth Wright

Des Moines Public Schools

 

The participants literally did not want to end the simulation. One participant even suggested the modules be used for all administrators, not just those in a program, but as another level of professional development.

– Dr. Porter

Prince George County, MD

 

“This experience with SchoolSims simulations has been nothing short of extraordinary. Every assistant principal in our district (and we have 140) has found these simulations invaluable for their growth as administrators, and especially for those who aspire to become principals. We now have directors and assistant superintendents attending our meetings as they want to see how the simulations work, and the learning that is taking place as a result. Our assistant principals are able to see the cause and effect of their decisions in a risk-free, fail forward environment. These simulations have enhanced collaboration among administrators as they are real scenarios.”

 

– Jacqueline Ingratta

Coordinator, Professional Learning & Development Brevard County Public Schools (FL)