Simulated Person Methodology provides education students with a unique experiential learning opportunity

Graduate students in the Faculty of Education’s Emergent Literacy course recently participated in a powerful experiential strategy workshop to help inform their learning and future teaching practice. A first in the Faculty of Education, The Simulated Person Methodology (SPM) workshop provided a unique, interactive and rich learning experience for the students.

SPM utilizes simulated persons (SPs) trained to play roles designed to meet specific learning objectives by providing students with hands-on learning to formulate effective strategies and solutions to each of the simulated scenarios.

pictured left to right: Susan Greenfield (SPM facilitator/trainer), Eva Peisachovich (founder and director SPM), Karen Armstrong (course director), David Remisch, (simulated person)

Course director Karen Armstrong worked with Dr. Eva Peisachovich, an associate professor in York University’s Faculty of Health and the founder and director of the Simulated Person Methodology (SPM) Lab, to present the workshop. With facilitator/trainer Susan Greenfield and the “simulated person”, David Remisch, Karen developed contrasting scenarios that simulated realistic classroom dilemmas and the resulting parent-teacher interviews.

The first scenario was a grade two teacher who had noticed that a student was resistant to reading activities, which he/she used to love. The teacher called the father, expressing concern and asking for a face-to-face meeting. The second scenario involved a Kindergarten teacher who noticed that a student was disrupting other students by poking, jabbing and pulling hair. After a week of this behaviour, the teacher arranged a meeting with the child’s parent to discuss the situation.

Students participating in a SPM scenario

Some of the learning opportunities that the scenarios provided included: exploring the possible reasons for the actions and behaviour of a parent with regard to the literacy development of their child; exploring strategies which would be helpful when talking to a parent about the literacy development of their child; and, identifying possible strategies that students themselves as teachers can do with the child in the classroom with regard to their growing literacy development.

“This methodology both brings to life and extends, Kolb’s experiential learning cycle as described in A case for change: experiential education integration at York University (2013): “experiencing (the activity phase); sharing (exchanging reactions and observations, processing “discussing patterns and dynamics”; generalizing (developing real-world principles) and applying (planning effective uses of learning)” said Karen Armstrong, “These in-class simulations plunge students into unpredictable scenarios, just as will happen in their future careers. By means of the process of SPM—in the safe space of the classroom--students move through stages of experiencing, reflecting, analyzing and discussing the potential in seemingly intractable situations. Through empathetic collaborative discussion, students develop responsive ways of proceeding and resulting in compelling learning experiences which will inform their future careers.”

“Despite my fear/reluctance to get up there and participate in the simulation, I’m glad I did!

It was such a meaningful and rewarding experience! I’m still thinking about it and imagining different scenarios and responses,” said Sabrina, a student in the Graduate Program in Education. “Being on the spot, actually experiencing the practice of tactfully gathering information in an unknown situation, exercising empathy while also trying to make connections and problem solve was so powerful. I certainly feel more confident and better prepared to handle such a situation in my future teaching practice, in a way I would not have been exposed to by just reading about it or watching someone else do it”.

To learn more about SPM or to book a workshop go to