The end is in sight for my semester as a student. It's been a very, very busy semester. I'm taking two courses: Research in Education, and Leadership in Educational Technology. Both have been interesting and valuable. Both have been taxing, but in very different ways.
The leadership course especially has been really interesting. We started the course by learning about our own strengths and how those impact our approach to leadership abilities. (We used the StrengthsFinder assessment--it was really helpful for self-knowledge!) One of the key elements of the course was to use a commercial leadership simulation software product, with the idea that practicing skills and techniques in the simulation will translate from the digital sim to real life situations. I was excited from the very beginning to explore simulation-based learning, as this is something I had read of but never really experienced firsthand. The product is called vLeader ("virtual leader," get it?) It has some technical limitations, for sure, but it is an interesting piece of software.
For one section of the semester, our major assignment was to work through the simulation, and interact via a message board to share our insights, wondering, frustrations, joys, and applications with each other.
I know that many of our cohort were frustrated with vLeader at points the course. I had a few frustrations as well--mostly technological, and some related to the limitations of the responses you could give within the simulation. (Side note: I think that was the biggest initial shortcoming of the simulation. It was very distracting to me at first, but eventually I got used to the fact that you had to listen to the intent of the statement, and not the phrasing of what the character was saying.)
Despite these frustrations, I feel like I learned a lot through my work with vLeader. It seems that now--after the vLeader experience--in almost every meeting I attend I think back to specific things that happened in vLeader. I have become much more mindful of the way I interact with others, and I'm at least a little more thoughtful about their intent to communicate. (Which is interesting, because that initial shortcoming of the simulation that bothered me so much at first has ended up really shaping my thinking in real life meetings.)
I've been reflecting on this throughout my work this semester. In a paper I wrote earlier in the course exploring the research base for simulation-based learning, I took the position that "you get out what you put in," drawing on Bandura's (1986) theories about self-efficacy and Deci, Koestner, & Ryan's (2001) work related to intrinsic motivation. Related to this, I found it interesting to see my professor's thoughts in a thread in the discussion forum, about how we would be graded for our work in vLeader: "A final note as to coursework at the doctoral level, my philosophy is that you get out of a class what you put into it. My primary concern for you is that you learn, and make progress toward meeting your professional goals as they pertain to this degree."
This has me wondering now about whether it was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for me? Did I enjoy the simulation, and perceive much learning through the simulation because I expected to?
I don't have a tidy answer to this question, but perhaps it comes back to my own strengths, as indicated by StrengthsFinder early in the course. Two of my clear strengths are "positivity" and "learner." Maybe this helps to explain my experience learning in the simulation as well?
Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.