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Preparing Students for Real World Practice Using Scenario-Based Learning Simulations – Featuring Teri Lewis


How do you prepare students for complex, real-life tasks? One approach is to use scenario-based learning — situations of varying levels of detail that approximate real experiences and allow students to recognize patterns and sort through different details.

Scenario Approach

Teri Lewis, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Early and Special Education, instructs teachers on different ways to work with student behavior in the classroom, from systemic approaches to creating interventions for specific students. In her face-to-face courses, Lewis has been able to help students create interventions because they brought their own examples of behavioral issues to discuss in class. In her online courses, however, Lewis needed a different solution because her students were located across the country and not all of them currently worked in a classroom.

Professor Teri Lewis
Teri Lewis

The unique approach that Lewis uses is like a real-time simulation, but it is spread over several weeks. The simulations start with Lewis giving her students (pre-service teachers) one of three different scenarios of students with behavioral problems: a student in early childhood, a student in elementary school and a student in secondary school. The pre-service teachers are then asked to analyze the scenarios,identify their concerns and goals for the students and then submit their initial thoughts at the end of the first week of the simulation. The next week, Lewis gives them the results from an assessment that gives them more data to work with and asks them to come up with an intervention. By the end of the second week, she gives the pre-service teachers feedback on the interventions they selected.

As the simulation unrolls over several weeks, students learn about different types of assessments and interventions, review what they should look for in various situations when deciding on appropriate assessments to use and how to select interventions based on the results of the assessments used. The schedule looks like this:

Week 4: Students are introduced to the simulation scenarios and asked to identify concerns about the student behavior and desired goals for that student.

Week 5: Students get new information, identify key behaviors and write an operational definition.

Week 6: Students create a data sheet for identified behaviors and provide a rationale for measurement approach.

Weeks 7 to 9: Students continue to work on the scenario. 

By the end of the simulation, the pre-service teachers will have experience dealing with situations that will likely occur in the schools they eventually work in.

Guidance and Feedback

Lewis was able to develop the simulation scenarios based on her experience as a behavior specialist and researcher. If students submit an assessment that doesn’t fit the scenario, she lets them know where they were off-track and gives them the data they need for the direction they should be heading. This saves on time in development, but it also keeps students focused on the data they should be looking at. As a result, even if there is variation in the submissions at each point, the data for each scenario that students get back to plan with is the same.


Article Credit

Thanks to Teri Lewis and Hans Aagard, the eCampus instructional design consultant who worked with Lewis on her course.