Even Superheroes need a CAPE

October 22, 2009

In a world filled with acronyms, I apologize for creating another– although, to be fair, I created this one a while ago.

I’ve been building simulations for a long time– since 1985, actually. Now, while that’s a long time to be doing anything, I really have found simulation (and simulation-type activities) to be perhaps the most effective way to deliver application-based learning. And here’s the reason why: so much of learning is focused on knowledge transfer. You have a bunch of stuff in your head, and you want it to be in my head, too, so you shovel it in there. Then you probably want me to take a test to prove that I learned it. Which I pass, and then we assume I know all this knowledge. Which I probably do, at that particular moment in time. But what happens when I actually need to use that knowledge? Will I be able to?

What’s the point of gaining super-powers if you can’t use them?

That’s the problem. A lot of content is easy to understand, but not nearly so easy to implement. So we end up with a lot of good knowledge that we aren’t able to use, and often we revert back to the old way. Bridging the Learn-Do gap is one of the oldest challenges of learning. That’s why I’m such a big fan of simulation—because it’s not about knowledge transfer, it’s about knowledge application. It’s about behavior, not about content.

Why does simulation do such a good job of bridging the Learn-Do gap? Because it provides:

  • Context: How does this behavior impact my role and the roles I interact with?
  • Application: When and where do I use this behavior on the job?
  • Practice: Try the behavior in a low-risk environment to gain confidence and perspective
  • Example: What does it look like when I do it right? What does it look like when I do it wrong?

Simulation allows you to leap over the Learn-Do gap in a single bound, by allowing you to use new behaviors in a low-risk environment and providing the Context, Application, Practice and Example you need to succeed in the real world.

Put it all together, and you have a CAPE that will help you get your super-powers off the ground.

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