Branching scenario design out-loud #2: the learning approach

In the previous post I described the Action Mapping stages we went through for an elearning branching scenario on Giving Positive Feedback. Now we’ve reached the stage of building the scenario approach.

In the deep end …

Vintage photo of girl swimming
Often the best learning approach to a scenario is to jump straight in without too much content as a preamble.

A typical elearning approach would have been to give a presentation on How to Give Positive Feedback, followed perhaps by a knowledge quiz, and then a scenario to give a simulation of real practice.  The principle would be, as with any scenario, to base the learning experience on seeing the consequences of poor decisions, rather than being told what to do and then given a virtual ‘smack on the wrist’ and told to try again.

An approach that starts with a presentation of ‘what you need to know’ often loses the learner’s attention – just another stream of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ to add to those received daily in briefings, procedures and other training. We felt it was better to get active involvement straight away. That meant we’d launch straight into the scenario. After all, many members of the potential audience will believe they already know how to give good positive feedback.

… but with a lifejacket

However, we didn’t want people to flounder, making choices by guesswork. Someone doing that may be tempted to try the scenario once more after a fail but they’re unlikely to try it a third time. So we wanted the basic principles, in as concise a form as possible, to be available as an option at any point in the scenario.
The kind of learning activity most likely to lead to the retention of the principles, and the effort to work out how they apply in real situations would be:
  1. To be faced with a concrete situation, then
  2. to refer to some general principles, then
  3. to work out how those principles would apply in this situation.

The debrief stage

So the learner would work through a complex branching scenario, with optional principles available throughout available for reference. However, it’s possible someone could get through the scenario, not referring to the principles, and still not grasp what the principles are.  In that case, we’ve given them a story but not anything they can transfer to other situations.  So it was important to build in a debrief stage to the scenario where we would review some of the decisions made and highlight the principles behind them, and why the best decisions were the best. We wanted this, as far as possible, to be based on questioning rather than telling.
So the structure, which you can apply to any scenario, would be:
  1. introduction, setting up the story
  2. branching scenario with a series of decisions within one story
  3. the results of the decisions you’ve made
  4. the choice of trying again or going on to the review/debrief
  5. review of the decisions with a rationale for each


Next: the decisions


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