Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

26 June 2012

Sims as CTA

Clark @ 6:43 AM

I had several great conversations over the course of last week’s #mLearnCon that triggered some interesting thoughts.  Here’s the first:

I was talking with someone charged with important training: nuclear.  We were talking about both the value of sims to support deep practice, and the difficulty in getting the necessary knowledge out of the subject matter expert (SME).  These converged for me in what seemed an interesting way.

First, the best method to get the knowledge out of the heads of SMEs is Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA).  CTA is highly effective, but also very complex.  It requires considerable effort to do the official version.

A different thread was also wrapped up in this.  Not surprisingly, I believe simulation games are the best form of deep practice to help cement skills.  I believe so strongly I wrote a book about it ;).

And the cross-pollination: I believe that we’ll be passing on responsibility for defining curricular paths to competency in areas to the associated communities of practice.  Further, I believe we will have collaboratively developed sims as part of that path, where we use wikis to edit the rules of the simulation to keep it up to date.

The integration in this context was to think of having the SMEs collaborate on the design of the sim as a way to make the necessary tacit knowledge explicit. It would make their understanding very concrete, and help ensure that the resulting sim is correct. Of course, they might rebel in terms of exaggerating and basing the practice in fantastic contexts, but it certainly would help focus on meaningful skills instead of rote knowledge.

The barrier is that experts don’t really have access to what they know, so having a concrete activity to ground their experience in practical ways strikes me as a very concrete way to elicit the necessary understandings.  CTA is about detailed processes to get at their tacit knowledge, but perhaps sim design is a more efficient mechanism. It could have tradeoffs, but it seems to disintermediate the process.

OK, so it’s just a wild idea at this time, but I always argue that thinking out loud is valuable, and I try to practice what I preach. What think you?

1 Comment »

  1. My experiences building simulations lead me to believe you could do this but you’d want an especially good facilitator. (Coincidentally, A List Apart just published an excellent little article on facilitation: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/facilitating-great-design/ )

    The trick is knowing what parts of the simulation require absolute fidelity and where you should simplify the details (where the details could appear in a different and more specific sim.) Deep SMEs often overestimate the importance of some tiny detail and underestimate the big picture.

    By the way, the Pushbutton Engine game framework does something similar to your Wiki idea by using a Google spreadsheet as a source for game parameters during development.

    Comment by Richard Clark — 26 June 2012 @ 6:09 PM

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