A very good example of learning by doing is scenario-based learning. Scenario-based learning is a pedagogical design where one or more learning scenarios serve to anchor and contextualize all learning and teaching activities (see Naidu, Menon, Gunawardena, Lekamge, & Karunanayaka, 2005). The scenarios in these educational settings are usually drawn from real life situations. They may be contrived but they aim to be as authentic as possible and reflect the variety and complexity that is part of real life situations. For the teacher and the tutor this scenario provides a meaningful context which can be used to explain abstract concepts, principles and procedures a lot more easily. For the learner, it serves to make learning relevant, meaningful and useful.
Typically a good learning scenario will reflect a common occurrence from the relevant field (see Naidu, Menon, Gunawardena, Lekamge, & Karunanayaka, 2005). It may be a case, problem or incident that is commonly encountered in the workplace. Using such cases, problems or incidences from the workplace in the education of learners serves to more adequately prepare them for the workforce as opposed to focusing their attention on the mastery of the subject matter content. The use of such scenarios is particularly relevant and meaningful in professional education.
A typically good learning scenario will sound like a story or a narrative of a common occurrence. It will have a context, a plot, characters and other related parameters. It usually involves a precipitating event which places the learner or a group of learners in a role, or roles that will require them to deal with the situation or problems caused by the event. The roles that learners might be asked to assume are those that they are likely to play in real life as they enter the workforce. Attached to these roles, will be goals that learners will be required to achieve. In order to achieve these goals they will be assigned numerous tasks and activities, some of which may require them to collaborate with their peers and other relevant groups, if these are part of the intended learning outcomes of their subject. While these activities essentially serve as learning enhancement exercises, a selection of them could be made assessable and given a mark which would contribute to the student’s final grade in the subject.
In order to attain the goals that learners are assigned in the scenario, and complete all the required activities, learners will have access to a wide range of relevant resources. These resources could include textbooks and other relevant reading material, multimedia content, and also experiences from the field of how expert practitioners have gone about solving or dealing with similar cases, situations, problems or incidences (see Schank, 1997; Schank, Fano, Jona, & Bell, 1994).
The learning scenario, its accompanying learning activities, and the assessment tasks serve as essential scaffolds for promoting and engendering meaningful learning activity (see Naidu, Menon, Gunawardena, Lekamge, & Karunanayaka, 2005). They also serve to contextualize learning and motivate learners who are turned off by too much focus on the mastery of the subject matter content and not enough on practical and generalizable skills. The assessment tasks and learning activities which the students are assigned are critical to the achievement of the intended learning outcomes. It is therefore essential that they are congruent with the intended learning outcomes for the subject. While they are embedded within the learning scenario they must be carefully designed and skillfully applied to direct students to the core subject matter content. By successfully completing these assessment tasks and learning activities, it is expected that learners will have accomplished the intended learning outcomes of the subject.
An example of a learning scenario
(Source: Master of Arts in Teacher Education (International) program, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Department of Education, The Faculty of Education, Nawala, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. Course: ESP 2245 Study Guide (2004). The Teacher Educator as a Researcher: Course Team: K. A. D. C. Oliver, Indrani Talagala, Chandinie Perera, Dayalatha Lekamge, Shironica Karunanayaka, pp. 4-10).
ESP 2245 - The Teacher Educator as a Researcher
Learning Scenario: A Tight Spot - What Shall I do?
The Director of Education of the Western Province in the country was asked to submit suggestions as part of a 5-year plan regarding future developments in the school system, which the newly appointed Minister of Education would be presenting to the parliament. The Director of Education felt he was in rather a “tight spot”, as he did not know where to start or what to say.
The Director of the Western Province did not wish to propose any suggestions since he knew that this task not only concerned the school system but also had a bearing on the future of the country. Therefore, he decided not to act hastily. He was aware that this request for submissions had been issued to Directors of all the provinces. Therefore, he thought it wise to seek the views of the other Directors in order to submit something as a group response.
A meeting of the Directors was arranged to discuss this directive. At the meeting it was unanimously decided to ask the Ministry for more time to consider this directive. The Director of the Southern Province proposed that each Director seeks the views of the principals of schools in their respective provinces regarding issues related to their schools. This was agreed to by everyone who was present at the meeting. The Director of the Western Province felt quite confident that he could come out of this tight spot. He promptly requested the Assistant Directors to nominate principals to represent all types of schools in the districts of the Western Province.
At the meeting of the Principals nominated by the Assistant Directors, many issues surrounding the school system were discussed. Some Principals, especially those from less developed areas argued that the resources are not fairly distributed among schools, and as a consequence they are not able to function effectively. High teacher-student ratios was another issue raised by some schools in the Province. They complained that it affected the schools’ performances adversely. Some argued that the teaching methodologies used by teachers are outdated and they are unaware of the most suitable teaching methodologies. Others pointed out that the in-service advisers did not provide effective training of their teachers. They blamed the National Institute of Education for not training in-service advisers properly and adequately. There were complaints about absenteeism and stagnation seriously impacting their schools. They hoped that the five-year plan the Minister intended to present to the Parliament would be able to resolve these problems. Deterioration of discipline in schools was another serious problem that was raised at this meeting. Everyone agreed that the issue should be addressed before things got out of control.
Apart from the foregoing issues, the Director of Education found that there were many other issues in the school system that needed investigating. But to get out of the tight spot he felt he was in, and to make suggestions to the Ministry, he had to address some of the more urgent issues in the school system. But he wasn’t sure where to begin and how to proceed with this task. He knew all the Directors faced the same problem so they all met again to discuss how to begin to address these issues.
At this second meeting they decided to seek the assistance of the Open University (OU). The OU had high-profile educationalists who had contributed much to education reforms that had been implemented by various governments. They also had experienced educational researchers who could be relied upon for using the right approach to address issues. The Directors felt it was appropriate to approach the OU for help.
So they approached the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the OU who agreed to undertake a study of the issues identified by the Principals. In order to carry out this task, the Dean sought the help of five of her senior lecturers and assigned to them the problems that had been identified. The Dean asked the investigation team —comprising Olivia, Indran, Disha, Dayan, and Chandi — to identify a suitable approach to carry out this task and report their findings to her. The first step in the process was to clearly identify the nature of the selected issue or problem and propose an approach for studying it.
Your role: Assume you are either Olivia, Indran, Disha, Dayan, or Chandi. You have been assigned one of the issues related to the school system. These could be any one of those issues identified by the Principals at their meeting, or one that currently is a problem in your own context. Clearly identify the issue or problem you have selected and describe the most appropriate approach for studying it.
- Clearly identify the issue or a problem you intend to investigate.
- Articulate the nature and significance of the issue/problem you selected.
- Find out what experts say about approaches that would help to address the researchable issues/problems.
- Discuss with your tutor, the researchable issue/problem you selected.
- Select an appropriate approach to address the issue/problem you selected.
- Justify your selection and reflect on why you selected this approach and not other approaches.
- Write a report clearly identifying:
- The issue/problem you selected.
- The nature and the significance of the issue/problem.
- The approach selected to investigate the problem with justifications for your selection and reasons for not selecting other approaches.
Learning Scenario continued ...
Research Procedure 1: Coming Out of the Tight Spot
After studying the nature of their respective issues/problems related to the school system and defining them Olivia, Indran, Disha, Dayan and Chandi decided to focus their attention on the specific objectives of their investigations and review related literature. The literature review helped them understand how other countries had been addressing similar problems, and issues. Chandi who opted for an evaluation approach was busy with the front-end analysis to gather necessary information related to her problem. This exercise made the investigation team confident in dealing with the selected issues, problems very effectively.
Their next task was to prepare a detailed plan for implementing the selected approach. They had been given a short period to carry out this work, and they wanted to use that period resourcefully.
Your role: Now that you have selected an issue or problem and an approach to study that issue, you will need to review related literature or perform a front-end analysis or needs analysis and prepare a detailed plan to implement your approach to this research.
- Prepare a brief report on your literature review or any front-end or needs analysis you may have carried out in preparation to carryout your investigation.
- Find out what the experts say about reviewing related literature, carrying out a front-end or needs analysis, and preparing a list of references and bibliography.
- Develop a detailed plan with time lines for implementing your investigation.
Submit in brief:
- A report of your literature review or outcomes of front-end or needs analysis of the selected issue or problem, along with a list of references, and a bibliography.
- A research plan with time lines and deliverables.