Sim Beyond the Sim Lab

Nursing leaders agree that active, contextual learning leads to positive student outcomes and professional success.

 Simulations are ideal for helping students experience how health care works in context

Students do not learn from just textbooks and lectures but from their ability to discuss and apply their own experiences and ideas. Teaching through storytelling is one of the oldest means of communication and exists in every culture. The use of storytelling as a teaching technique helps students embrace important aspects of their culture as they begin to blend and adapt to new ways of coming to know. Presented with stories a new learner may initially spot only individual images, actions, interventions, or medications. Veteran nurses, however, see things differently. From their many years of practice, they’re able to distinguish patterns from the symbols, and identify entire holistic, big-picture processes. Their education, work experiences, and knowledge of the patterns allow them to see a story that novice learners don’t see. Why can’t faculty teach the whole story from the start? How can faculty move away from teaching novice learners separate signs and symbols and, instead, enable them to derive patterns out of symbols and meaning out of patterns?

Using story and narrative enables students to make meaning and patterns out of knowledge  

Using story in the context of simulation directs the learner to use the content they read about in their textbooks and other materials. The learning is directed through activities and strategies not aligned to the content itself, but to innovative processes that facilitate learning. Faculty better manage students’ expectations when students learn by directly applying new knowledge.  Nurse educators then can more easily role model their thinking as reflective practitioners, helping students to see the world in the context of new knowledge.

The Socratic method of teaching can enhance the use of simulation in promoting active, contextual learning                                                                                                                                                           

Specific simulation learning strategies can vary, yet incorporated into all of these approaches is the Socratic spirit: being truly curious about what students are and are not thinking. Through the use of Socratic dialogue, educators can explore learners’ thought processes in order to understand their perceptions of the learning experience. By adopting this stance of genuine curiosity, teachers build  relationships with students wherein meaning is derived from experience. How can faculty do this?

  • Ask students for evidence of their positions.
  • Ask for an example of a point a student has made.
  • Ask for an opposing view to facilitate compare and contrast discussions.
  • Suggest parallel examples or counter examples, e.g., in a discussion about an elderly patient suffering from dehydration, ask students how they would approach the same condition in an 18-year-old athlete).
  • Ask the entire group of students whether or not they agree on a position.

One of the key benefits of adopting a Socratic approach is that we learn to infuse it in day-to-day teaching and conversations. The goal is to ensure that students aren’t coming up with the right answers by using knowledge incorrectly; in other words, how students apply knowledge generally is more important than reaching the correct answer on merely one specific classroom-based problem.

There are five easy and creative ways, click here,  to use story in a simulated environment beyond the sim lab.

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