kitchen table math, the sequel: la même chose

Thursday, March 27, 2008

la même chose

Some fifteen years ago [circa 1990] I was working on problems and issues involved in the design of simulators for training in complex skills. Projects included applications in military and in paramedical and nurse training. In both contexts, the projects arose as a result of evidence that the investment in simulator design and development – many millions of dollars annually in the case of the military training applications – was not leading to the expected improvements in learning. Analysis showed that the design teams involved habitually followed certain principles, one of which was “fidelity” – the simulated experience should replicate as closely as possible the “real life” experience of doing the job.

However, a search of the literature on fidelity in simulator design revealed a chain of studies, initiating from some of the earliest work of Robert Gagné in the1950’s, clearly demonstrating that absolute fidelity to the real-life job situation in the simulated exercise was ineffective, especially in the early stages of learning. Partial simulation, that focused attention on the key skill elements that had to be learned, that enhanced relevant guidance and feedback information, and eliminated irrelevant “noise” that could distract the learner, was shown to be the most effective design for the early stages of learning. It was, indeed, quite possible to construct a research-based design theory for the incorporation of fidelity – indeed different aspects of fidelity (physical, perceptual, etc.) – in specific ways at specific stages of the learning process. However, the bulk of those involved in the design of simulators were completely ignoring this research base.


Maybe education is doomed to progress in ever repeating circles of reform that lead nowhere. Maybe this is a phenomenon of society in general, summarized so neatly in the French expression “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”- the more things change the more they stay the same.

"Constructivism Revisited: Progress in ever decreasing circles..."
by Alexander Romiszowski, Ph.D. Contributing Editor

I really don't like reading about bad teaching in places like the military.

Or in nursing.

One more reason to die in your sleep.


Anonymous said...

It's sad that we have to re-learn every lesson. When I went through Air Force flight training in the late 1960s, we sent several weeks in a "procedural trainer" learning cockpit display and switch locations, and practicing routine and emergency procedures. The procedural trainer was essentially a cardboard mockup of the cockpit. Only after mastering the basics did we move on to simulators and aircraft.

Catherine Johnson said...

It really is horrifying.

Elizabeth's posts are especially appalling in this respect. She's had to go back one hundred years or more to retrieve knowledge that's gone missing.