Simulated person methodology provides education students with a unique experiential learning opportunity

Graduate students in the Faculty of Education’s Emergent Literacy course recently participated in a powerful experiential strategy workshop to help inform their learning and future teaching practice.

A first in the Faculty of Education, the Simulated Person Methodology (SPM) Workshop provided a unique, interactive and rich learning experience for the students.

SPM uses simulated persons (SPs) trained to play roles designed to meet specific learning objectives. This gives students an opportunity to formulate effective strategies and solutions for a variety of simulated scenarios.

Left to right: Susan Greenfield, SPM facilitator/trainer; Eva Peisachovich, founder and director SPM; Karen Armstrong, course director; David Remisch, simulated person

Course director Karen Armstrong worked with Eva Peisachovich, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Health and the founder and director of the SPM Lab, to present the workshop. With facilitator/trainer Susan Greenfield and David Remisch as the SP, Armstrong developed contrasting scenarios that simulated realistic classroom dilemmas and the resulting parent-teacher interviews.

The first scenario was a Grade 2 teacher who noticed that a student was resistant to reading activities that they used to love. The teacher called the student’s father, expressing concern and asking for a face-to-face meeting.

The second scenario involved a Kindergarten teacher who noticed that a student was disrupting other students by poking, jabbing and pulling hair. After a week of this behaviour, the teacher arranged a meeting with the child’s parent to discuss the situation.

Some of the learning opportunities the scenarios provided included: exploring the possible reasons for the actions and behaviour of a parent with regard to the literacy development of their child; exploring strategies that would be helpful when talking to a parent about the literacy development of their child; and identifying possible strategies that teachers can use with students regarding literacy development.

“This methodology both brings to life and extends [David A.] Kolb’s experiential learning cycle as described in ‘A case for change: experiential education integration at York University’ (2013): experiencing (the activity phase); sharing (exchanging reactions and observations); processing (discussing patterns and dynamics); generalizing (developing real-world principles); and applying (planning effective uses of learning),” said Armstrong. “These in-class simulations plunge students into unpredictable scenarios, just as will happen in their future careers. By means of the process of SPM – in the safe space of the classroom – students move through stages of experiencing, reflecting, analyzing and discussing the potential in seemingly intractable situations. Through empathetic collaborative discussion, students develop responsive ways of proceeding, and resulting in compelling learning experiences which will inform their future careers.”

Students participating in an SPM scenario

Graduate students participating in the program reported the experience to be meaningful and rewarding. One student, in the graduate program in education, said the program made her feel more confident and better prepared to handle different scenarios and responses.

To learn more about SPM, or to book a workshop, visit