Shaking up the traditional classroom: Human simulation as a teaching tool

A new program at York University will help educators give students a ‘human simulation’ experience – the opportunity to apply knowledge and practical real-life skills that they can’t learn from a lecture or a book.

The Simulated Person Methodology (SPM) is a workshop that provides a unique, interactive learning experience for educators who are interested in using simulated, experiential learning in the classroom.

This simulation approach uses human interaction to enhance professional development and provide an opportunity to practice skills in a safe space where one can make mistakes, and try again, with feedback and coaching.

Key skills required of today’s students include critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, collaboration and communication, yet research and Canada’s economic and demographic data both suggest that many new graduates struggle to transition from school to work life.

According to a recent Forbes survey of employers, 60 per cent claim that newly graduated workers lack the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for the job, and that new graduates need to hone their communication, leadership, and interpersonal and teamwork skills. In other research, employers state that students are ill prepared for employment.

Many new graduates do not meet employers’ expectations for entry-level thinking and judgment, and these are exactly the kind of skills that need to be reinforced through post-secondary education.

The use of live simulators provides students with the opportunity to apply their education, and practice real-life skills they can translate to the workplace.

For educators interested in embedding this approach in their classes, the SPM workshop is available to York University faculty supported through the Teaching Commons.

Educators participating in the SPM workshop can gain the following skills/competencies: fostering innovation in educators’ use of simulation, confidence in application of this pedagogy in the academic setting and personal capacity regarding integration of simulation into curriculum.

Eva Peisachovich

Professor Eva Peisachovich, School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health, along with her colleagues, has published work associated with the pilot project that led to this program in the International Journal of Higher Education.

Faculty feedback on the program indicates the workshops are “invaluable”, and helped educators to reflect on their approach to facilitating simulations.

Students have also commented that the program helps them to “step outside of our comfort zones” and brings a new element to communication and education.

The next workshop runs June 28 to 29, from 9am to 4pm.

For more information on the SPM workshop, or to register, go to