I’ve recently completed a period of work with Aberlour Childcare Trust. A large part of the project was to produce some branching scenarios covering typical decisions care staff have to make very quickly and sometimes under pressure, when supporting an autistic child. The scenarios were moderately complex, each with several outcomes and a good number of decisions. We designed them on the assumption they’d be a typical elearning product, an individual exercise, with links out to a resource bank for learners who wanted or needed to brush up on principles and practice.
However, when the manager who was my SME was testing the scenarios he did so in team meetings and found that they generated a lot of discussion – ‘I wouldn’t do that.’ ‘We always do that’ ‘That wouldn’t work at our place’ ‘Why does it say that?’ and even ‘I wouldn’t do any of those choices’. I sat in on one. Sometimes it took the team over five minutes to settle on one choice, just to see what would happen. Having had the same experience with a couple of teams, Aberlour have now settled on using the scenarios primarily as a team exercise, including some facilitators notes, with the aim of
- challenging practice
- providing a safe way to criticise practices without any personal criticism implied
- drawing out assumptions
- allowing less experienced staff to chip in
- uncovering good practice that may have gone unshared.
There’s nothing new here, of course, I’ve known about it as an approach before, but it was great to see it come to life in this way.
Cathy Moore suggests some developments to this approach:
- Consider having groups of 3-4 people go through the scenario together, discussing each point.
- Go a step further and require each member of the group to always defend a certain option, whether they agree with it or not (for example, Matt has to defend option B at each decision point, even if he thinks it’s the wrong answer). This helps learners think much more deeply.
- Consider having learners go through the scenario a day or two before the debriefing session, to give them time to process it and to take advantage of the spacing effect to improve recall.
Do you use scenarios this way? Would it work for you? Please add a comment below.
Incidentally I’ll be at the Elearning Network meeting on Friday 18th September at the Scottish Parliament, where I’ll be running a Knowledge Cafe session. If you’re in Scotland, hope to see you there!