Learning by doing in a computer based simulation
As stated by Dede (2004) and others, students may have significant differences in learning styles. This is the root of a blended approach, according to which different teaching strategies should account for the differences in student learning styles. Most teaching occurs at present in lecture format, which appeals to just one learning style, and it would be desirable to have other formats available in the same course.
This project is centered on the methodology known as “Learning by doing in a simulated environment”. This methodology has been successfully applied by Roger Schank and co-workers in a number of simulations in business administration (Schank & Nieman 2001, Schank 2002). It evolved from earlier work on case-based reasoning and case-based explanations (Schank 1986, Schank et al. 1994). Schank’s approach is about active learning, and its main postulates may be stated as:
(1) Training that is carried out on a computer should involve some form of simulation, in which the learner plays a role in doing something. “Doing” in this project is some form of action on a situation related to a structural failure.
(2) The environment should be designed so that it can provide the learners with several ways to support their learning.
(3) Failure is an essential part of learning, so that a simulation should provide the learner with situations in which she can make mistakes and fail. This can be achieved by including information that may lead a novice to form premature erroneous conclusions.
(4) The learners should be able to ask questions to an expert when they need it more, that is, when they make mistakes. If a situation does not result as expected, then it brings questions to the people who attempt to understand the situation.
(5) A learning environment may be effective if it is related to the interests of the students. The current project will bring professional issues, which are of great interest to engineering students.
An adaptation of Schank’s approach to the field of engineering structural analysis is proposed in this research. The simulations presented by Schank tell how the story (or parts of it) develops (Schank & Nieman 2001, Schank 2002), but not how the computer-based system is organized. Some of the tasks to be carried out in this research will organize the simulation in a systematic and effective way.