What is the purpose of simulations in communication training?

As participants progress through the Praxis Cycle, they have the opportunity to participate in simulations, or enactments, of specific communication challenges with a professional actor. Simulations allow us to experiment with different communication strategies to improve our understanding of and hone necessary skills. With simulations, there is no limit to the number of experiences that we can explore, and participants can increase the personal relevance of the training by providing examples of their own socio-professional interactions to reproduce through simulation. Simulations are advantageous as a form of learning because they offer versatility, and they allow us to compress time and remove irrelevant details that exist in reality (Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999), thus creating an optimal learning environment for participants to immerse themselves in the process.

A number of studies have indicated that simulations improve learning of skills and processes (Grantcharov, et al., 2004). As the demand for communication and soft skills grows, everyone stands to benefit from this method of training. Through simulations, participants experience different situations, relationships, emotions, and strategies. Simulation-based learning is effective in preparing individuals to cope with unanticipated events while developing teamwork and communication skills. Additionally, participants are able to harness the information and develop an understanding of their experiences by sharing ideas with others during the feedback discussions. The assumption of feedback is that all participants share in learning the same skills at the same time to help increase understanding within the group (Petranek, Corey, & Black, 1992). In fact, participants who learn through simulations show greater increases in confidence and improved performance compared to those who learn in lecture-based classrooms (Grantcharov, et al., 2004).

An additional advantage of simulations is that they are an ideal educational approach for all persons. From experienced professionals to novice employees, simulations address skills and challenges in ways that traditional classroom methods cannot. Simulations require collaboration with others, and work to develop a culture of learning (Garcia, 1995). In every organization, the expertise of members is diverse and each individual is valued for his/her contributions to the groups’ collective set of skills. Simulations emphasize learning new skills and how to share skills within the group; they are the most effective way to ensure success on all levels.

Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (1999). “Learning Communities in Classrooms: A Reconceptualization of Educational Practice,” in Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Thearoy, Vol. II. Reigeluth, C. M., (Ed). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Garcia, M. H. (1995). An anthropological approach to multicultural diversity training. Applied Behavioral Science, 31 (4), 490-504.

Petranek, C. F., Corey, S., & Black, R. (1992). Three levels of learning in simulations: Participating, debriefing, and journal writing. Simulation and Gaming, 23 (2), 174-185.

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