Classroom simulations are effective for students

May 20, 2019 — by Justin Guo

While notes and lectures can be effective ways to help students grasp concepts, teachers are always looking for even more effective ways to advance their students’ learning.

One way is through classroom simulations. In classes such as history or English, simulations provide numerous benefits. They recreate the circumstances of a certain event, allowing students to fully experience  the emotions and importance of that event.

The biggest problem with readings, video guides or lectures is that they are too often devoid of emotion. Though students may understand the information that they are being taught, there is no way for them to truly understand the gravity and emotions involved in a war trial or debate.

For instance, when discussing the U.S.’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most teachers would cover the many very heated discussions between those who were for the bombing and those who were against the action.

And while a lesson like that could be both true and informative, it can also easily go in one ear and out the other. However, taking the time to split the classroom into the two sides and allocating a class period to replicate the conditions of what the atomic bomb dropping debate would have been like allows students to truly experience the severity, frustration and urgency in making that decision.

Additionally, classroom simulations are often more memorable and fun than watching videos or listening to a lecture.

In world history teacher Kirk Abe’s class, the students have a simulated debate discussing whether or not Kaizer Wilhelm II was ultimately guilty on two charges: starting and escalating World War I. There are three main roles: lawyers, witnesses and jurors, alongside a judge, bailiff and a defendant. Each role has to do their own respective research to prepare for the trial; lawyers have to research questions to ask during cross examinations and witnesses must know their person’s profile inside out. The other roles have to take notes during the trial and write summaries afterward.

Though it may feel like a daunting task at first, when the trial comes together and everyone fulfills their duties, the simulation turns out to be a very comprehensive learning experience that is both memorable and informative.

Nevertheless, simulations have their problems. The biggest pitfalls are that they are hard for teachers to come up with and require a lot of effort from both the students and the teacher; therefore, if the simulation is ultimately ineffective, then it becomes an enormous waste of time and energy for both parties.

At the end of simulations, teachers can ask their students for feedback and their thoughts on the simulation. This way, through a trial and error process, teachers can learn what to improve on as well as what to keep the same in the future.

Finally, because there is often not enough time in the school year for teachers to do as many creative lessons as they might like to, it is imperative that when they do, they have been well received and considered to be effective.

Despite these potential risks, taking the time to do classroom simulations has important value. Simulations allow students to personally experience the circumstances of an event and allow them to interpret a situation instead of being fed facts or someone else’s opinion on the event.

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