Many of you know of my crazy thoughts and ideas to try to connect things together with contrasts and comparisons to help people understand concepts and ideas. Well…. Here goes another one of them!
I find that people continuously struggle with understanding the true relationship of the scenario (defined as the collective information, tools, and techniques that are presented to participants of simulations) to the outcomes of the simulation. The confusion arises from the fact that people get inappropriate messaging during the formative times of their simulation careers.
People gain the idea that the scenario must be as real as possible, or perfect mimic some aspect of real life in healthcare in order to be effective instead of recognition that the sole purpose is to create a script and stage that allows participants to perform. Some people believe that the overall goal of simulation is to recreate reality. The sad part is, those misguided thoughts often lead to over-production of the scenario and that the scenario is the primary focus of the activity. This can lead to the unintended consequences of increasing the workload of the simulation relative to the value of performance improvement and/or introduce confusion to the participants of the scenario. Neither of which are desirable.
It occurred to me recently that a terrific analogy can be made by evaluating the relationship of music, to competitive dance. As it turns out the scenario is simply the music.
Thinks about it. When a dancer or group of dancers are going to compete, a number of things must be in place. First, there is an understanding that the dance will be carried out with the playing of music. The activity will last a certain length of time, involve one or more people who are supposed to do certain things at certain times and that various details will be assessed or evaluated along the way. At times the evaluation maybe be structured to focus on improvement (formative) and perhaps feedback is shared along the way (deliberate practice preparing for a competition), while other times may it may be a high-stakes evaluation (summative) resulting in only a score (the actual competition).
Now let’s focus on the music. What is its purpose in a dance competition? If you think about it, the music providers the framework or backdrop against which the dancing activity occurs. It helps to coordinate the tone, the tempo, and the activities associated with the dance. If the objective is to assess a pair of dancers doing a waltz, then a waltz is played. So the learning objective would read, at the conclusion of this five minute activity, the participants will demonstrate the ability to perform a waltz. If we wanted to evaluate a Latin dance, we would play Latin music and have an appropriate assessment criterion by which to guide the improvement of the activity.
While it is technically possible for the assessment to occur in the absence of the music, it would be awkward for the participants and the evaluators as well. Further, a piece of music may be specifically chosen to encourage a certain dance move that would facilitate the evaluation of the activity, let’s say a twirl or a flip. If we needed to evaluate or score how well one performed a flip, a flip would need to occur during the dance.
When using the methods of simulation in the healthcare world, we need to see people dance. The dance we need to see is often a complex one involving the delivery of healthcare, but it is a dance none the less involving specific movements, communications, and other activities toward a specific goal There are times that we need to see individuals dance, other times teams.
If we are to evaluate a certain element of healthcare, then we must have carefully composed the music that propagated the desired activity to have occurred during the dance. As they dance, we perform an assessment with a goal of helping them improve through various feedback mechanisms. Such feedback may occur through active reflection and facilitated discussion (debriefing), self-reflection, peer to peer engagement, or perhaps in the delivery of a more formal score in the case of summative feedback.
The bigger point is, the scenario is constructed and executed (composed) to provide the background milieu to form the basis of the dance, i.e. have participants perform the activity that we wish to assess. We choose different types [of music] to play that is concordant with the activity we wish to evaluate. At times we play a tune that accentuates the evaluation of critical thinking skills, perhaps the performance of a complex skill, or maybe one that allows a whole team to dance together requiring teamwork that will benefit from feedback.
So, the next time you are composing your scenario, give careful consideration to the moves that you desire to evaluate. The music that plays should allow/encourage your dancers to perform the steps and activities that will be evaluated and turned into useful information to facilitate improvement.
Compose, have people dance and help them get better!
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