10:07 AM

Using simulation to work through real-life workplace issues

Academics give students many of the skills they need to succeed on the job, but not every situation in the workplace is a textbook example.

Take dealing with interpersonal conflict, staff room gossip, or how to receive feedback. Amy Ocampo and Sonya Bramwell, field placement specialists in the Department of Community Studies, know real-life situations that happen every day when working with others can prove challenging for those without previous experience.

So the duo, who liaise between employers and Mohawk human services students doing field placements, created a suite of workplace simulation tools to bolster student employability and interpersonal skills.

“We want field placements to be a positive and successful experience for students, preparing them as best we can for employment,” Bramwell said. “They’re in the field, representing the college and we want our community partners to welcome our students.”

With the help of an Applied Research and Innovation in Education (ARIE) grant through IDEAWORKS, Ocampo and Bramwell used employer and student feedback to determine shortcomings in student preparedness for field placements.

Employers told them there were sometimes gaps in students’ professionalism and employability skills. Students said they didn’t feel prepared for some situations, such as articulating their skill sets.

Ocampo and Bramwell then studied existing simulation-based learning models, including role playing, interactive videos, and self-assessments, to create experiential learning tools to help students navigate challenging workplace situations.

In one role-playing activity, educational support students were asked to give medication to a child they weren’t allowed to administer to. They has to think about how they would react and answer other reflective questions about the scenario.

Facilitators helped students as they worked through the problem. Groups then took turns acting out a solution. Students watching the mock scenarios answered questions about what they were seeing.

At the end of the session, everyone discussed what they learned as a class. Students were receptive to the entire process, Ocampo and Bramwell said.

“It’s providing students a safe place to make a mistake and then fix it,” Ocampo said.

Going forward, the duo hope to work with the Centre for Teaching and Learning to put some of the tools online, making them more accessible. They also hope to build on their catalogue of scenarios and resources, which faculty and staff won’t need extra training to use.

“When you’re delivering this information as a lecture, students don’t always understand as well as they would if they experienced it,” Bramwell said. “Students are able to see and practise being part of real-life scenarios helping build confidence and skills for placement.”

IDEAWORKS is Mohawk’s hub for applied research and innovation. Learn more about how you can get involved in research through IDEAWORKS at www.mohawkcollege.ca/ideaworks