Simulation theory and simulation-based learning theory

Sensory Stimulation Theory

Traditional sensory stimulation theory has as its basic premise that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated (Laird, 1985). Laird quotes research that found that the vast majority of knowledge held by adults (75%) is learned through seeing. Hearing is the next most effective (about 13%) and the other senses – touch, smell and taste account for 12% of what we know. By stimulating the senses, especially the visual sense, learning can be enhanced. However, this theory says that if multi-senses are stimulated, greater learning takes place. Stimulation through the senses is achieved through a greater variety of colours, volume levels, strong statements, facts presented visually, use of a variety of techniques and media.

Simulation theory

 The term simulation theory primarily refers to an account of mindreading that accords to empathy, or simulation, a core role in how we understand, or mindread, the states of others. Simulation plays a significant role in human cognition. Drawing on findings in developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, it shows that mind reading involves the imitation, copying, or reexperience of the mind reading target’s mental processes. People commonly execute mindreading by trying to simulate, replicate or reproduce in their own minds the same state, or sequence of states, as the target. This is the simulation theory (ST).

How should the concept of ‘simulation’ be understood? The verb simulate is derived from the Latin simulare, which means ‘imitate’, ‘feign’, or ‘copy’. The Latin verb is in turn derived from similis, which means ‘similar’ or ‘like’. Applying this notion to the cognitive realm, we may say that one cognitive event, state, or process ‘simulates’ another event, etc., just in case it imitates, copies, or reproduces the second event. In the mind reading literature, this sense is captured by other labels for simulation (e.g., ‘replication’13 or ‘recreation’22). Another useful term, often employed in the cognitive science literature, is ‘reexperience’. In cognitive scientific usage—and as we are using the term—‘reexperience’ does not necessarily mean conscious reexperience. For example, an event can be unconsciously reexperienced if there is a neural or functional resemblance (but no phenomenological resemblance) between.

ST (in its original form) says that people employ imagination, mental pretense, or perspective taking (‘putting oneself in the other person’s shoes’) to determine others’ mental states. A mentalizer simulates another person by first creating pretend states (e.g., pretend desires and beliefs) in her own mind that correspond to those of the target. She then inputs these pretend states into a suitable cognitive mechanism, which operates on the inputs and generates a new output (e.g., a decision). This new state is taken ‘off line’ and attributed or assigned to the target.

Simulation theory of empathy

Simulation theory of empathy is a theory that holds that humans anticipate and make sense of the behavior of others by activating mental processes that, if carried into action, would produce similar behavior. This includes intentional behavior as well as the expression of emotions. The theory states that children use their own emotions to predict what others will do. Therefore, we project our own mental states onto others. Simulation theory is not primarily a theory of empathy, but rather a theory of how people understand others—that they do so by way of a kind of empathetic response. This theory uses more biological evidence than other theories of mind, such as the theory-theory.

In one sense of the term, empathy refers to the basic maneuver of feeling one’s way into the state of another, by “identifying” with the other, or imaginatively putting oneself in the other’s shoes. One does not simply try to depict or represent another’s state, but actually to experience or share it.

Simulation-based learning theory and self-regulated learning

 Simulation-based learning is a constructivist learning model that provides learners with an experience of working on an usually simplified simulated world or system. This approach, widely adopted in military and aviation “to maximize training safety and minimize risk”, is today used extensively, especially in the medical education.

 A simulation can be defined as a model of reality reflecting some or all of its properties. Robert Gagne identified the following properties of a simulation as crucial:

  • A simulation represents a real situation in which operations are carried out.
  • A simulation provides the user with certain controls over the problem or situation.
  • A simulation omits certain distracting variables irrelevant or unimportant for the particular instructional goals.Simulation = (Reality) – (Task irrelevant elements)

 Simulation-based learning today mostly relies on usage of computers and advanced technologies to provide a near authentic experience for the user and enhance learning. As a learning tool, simulations mostly rely on some other learning theory and implement its principles.

Criticisms: Many previous studies in this area found that, at least for novice learners, simulation-based learning is hard and that they have problems in establishing goals and their results in learning through simulation or that they have problems with verbalizing results and gained knowledge. It seemed that richness of the information a student can extract from a simulation makes his learning more difficult unless it is first simplified and well structured.

Self-regulated learning

Self-regulated learning (SRL) requires an active learner who has developed a set of processes for managing the achievement of learning goals. Simulation-based training is one context in which trainees can safely practise learning how to learn.

Self-regulated learning (SRL) is often discussed in the health professions as a concept that applies generally to lifelong learning and specifically to the development of skills such as those required in reflective practice. Research on SRL in health professions education, however, is sparse relative to that in other education literatures, in which academic self-regulation is a field of study firmly grounded in a number of theories. As in any field, education scholars differ on the key ingredients of effective SRL, yet all tend to agree that SRL involves modulating one’s affective, cognitive and behavioural processes during learning in order to attain desired goals. In studying SRL, researchers typically focus on two areas: (i) specific instances of SRL in order to understand how best to support (or scaffold) learning within a session (Was SRL supported in this instance so trainees learned the topic of interest well?), and (ii) how learners develop SRL skills they can use beyond that session (Did the process of learning today prepare them for future learning?).

Educators and researchers shift from thinking about SRL as learning alone to thinking of SRL as comprising a shared responsibility between the trainee and the instructional designer (i.e. learning using designed supports that help prepare individuals for future learning).

One model with strong explanatory power is the social-cognitive model of SRL, which suggests that learners progress through four stages as they learn a particular task. In the first two stages, observational and emulative, the learner watches and then imitates social or environmental sources such as an instructor or instructional video. In the self-control stage, the source of learning shifts to the learner, who still relies heavily on previously observed performances to guide his or her actions. Finally, in the self-regulation stage, the learner spontaneously adapts performance successfully in a variety of situations. This model depicts learning as an activity that a learner self-regulates whether learning alone (unsupervised) or in the presence of instructors or peers (supervised). Fortunately, new technologies are expanding the situations in which trainees can learn how to learn. In particular, technology-enhanced simulation affords trainees the opportunity for SRL.



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