Using Simulations to Build Experience for School Staff

January 5, 2023

By Nick Kovalcik & Danielle Miller

Across many industries, building experience for staff is a significant challenge. According to a report conducted by LinkedIn, training employees is a top priority, yet managers continue to be dissatisfied with the learning and development in the workplace. The effectiveness and efficiency of skills training can be increased using methods based on cutting-edge technology and tried-and-true learning strategies. One strategy is simulation training, which involves placing participants in realistic, immersive situations where they can practice new skills under conditions similar to their jobs. These practical situations frequently include game components that improve motivation, focus, and learning.

Simulations are familiar to many fields. In healthcare, simulations have been used for years to train and build experience for nurses, doctors, and even surgeons. According to “A study of laparoscopic surgery, surgeons who trained using simulations had a 29% increase in speed, nine times lower likelihood of experiencing a stall during surgery, and they were five times less likely to cause patient injury” (Cespedes et al.). Pilots are also using simulations to learn to fly with flight simulators. If we are using simulations in these critical situations in many different industries that are proven to work, why are we not implementing them more across various fields? 

Simulation training has proven to help improve decision-making, collaboration, and change management amongst users, so why aren’t educators using them yet? Simulations belong in the education field, and current and aspiring school leaders and teachers deserve the opportunity to have simulation learning implemented into their professional development.

Simulations and Decision-Making

Simulations provide an experiential learning opportunity for complex decision-making between you and your peers in a safe space. In a choose-your-own-adventure using artificial intelligence to direct you down the appropriate path based on your chosen selection, you will decide the best course of action, implement it, and experience the consequences, all within the same exercise. According to a recent study done by Harvard Business, after using simulations, “88% of the users reported a much better understanding of their responsibilities and improved decision-making skills; 90% said their ability to collaborate with other lines of business had also improved”(Cespedes et al.). 

Simulations and Collaboration

Simulations create an immersive, collaborative environment, especially for school staff looking to learn from each other. At each decision point of a simulation, it presents the opportunity to collaborate and discuss with peers why they made the decisions they did. There is also an opportunity for more experienced school staff to mentor and collaborate with novice school staff to provide advice about situations they have experienced beforehand.

Below, Dr. Jennifer Bailey from the University of Texas at Tyler discusses her research on how simulations provide an impactful professional development experience for school leaders and staff. 

Simulations and Change Management

Across different industries, and especially in education, change is constantly happening. School leaders often need more time and professional development to keep up with the continually changing environment. Simulations provide a solution to keeping up with change management. With topics in SEL, equity, leading change, difficult conversations, and more, users can take part in many different scenarios wherever they are and on nearly every device they user has on hand. Unlike traditional professional development, the flexibility of not needing to be sitting in the same room as your peers provides users with more opportunities to learn and build upon their skills.

The SchoolSims Library of Simulations helps to provide current and aspiring school leaders with the tools they need to apply this framework. Simulations are an experiential learning tool that provides opportunities for personal and professional development and real-world application of learning. Principals and assistant principals must be prepared to handle difficult and complex situations. Utilizing simulations is the best way to prepare them. Simulations will assist in helping your staff develop their experience portfolios in a safe environment, while improving retention and building.

“Using Simulations to Upskill Employees.” Harvard Business Review, 16 Nov. 2022,