Simply telling a child ‘not to lie’ does not work the same as telling them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. Children can relate to George and his mistake, and see firsthand from the story the reward of telling the truth. When faced with a similar situation in their own life, the scenario guides children to tell the truth and not to lie.
Learning from real life examples maximizes learner engagement and knowledge retention. Children learn better through a story or a scenario that they can relate to, than from lectures and speeches, and us adults are no different. We learn from stories; they inspire us, motivate us, and we try to emulate them. Scenario or story-based learning places learners in realistic situations and urges them to use skills and information that they then can recall for future use.
When designing an e-learning course, it is essential to understand and analyze the needs and expectations of the target audience, the outcome of that learning, and then zero-in on the right instructional strategy. For teaching different types of soft skills (such as communication, team building, decision-making, problem solving, and others) learners need hands on practice. In addition, for crisis training, like ‘Dealing with an Irate Customer’ or ‘Preparation for an Emergency Situation’, learners need to learn, practice, and perfect skills ahead of time so they are prepared. Scenario-Based Learning is the best instructional strategy to achieve these outcomes.
But how do you write concrete scenarios that are both believable and effective?
Here are seven tips:
1. Understand the Learners: To write concrete and effective scenarios you must understand your learners and know their needs and expectations. Understand the skills that they already possess, the extent of challenge that can be given to them, and the outcome that they want to attain to determine how the scenario should be framed and presented. Not understanding the learner might result in a scenario too boring or too complex to achieve the desired results.
2. Create Real Life and Relevant Situations: Make your scenarios as real as possible. A scenario is essentially a story with characters and situations, usually accompanied by questions that challenge the learner to respond. Unless the learner finds these situations believable and relevant, they will not relate to them. Only a realistic situation can engage the learner and help them retain useful information, so make your fictional scenarios as real and relevant as possible.
3. Motivate the Learner: A well-written scenario should motivate the learner to action. As previously mentioned, a scenario usually poses problem situations for learners to respond to and they are expected to do so by recalling their previous knowledge. Thus, an effective scenario motivates the learners to believe that they have the necessary skills to overcome any problem situation they encounter.
4. Challenge the Learners: A scenario will only work and help learners retain information when it challenges them.
Consider a course on ‘Communication Skills’ as an example. The course introduces two employees discussing their work profiles in the organization. In conclusion, the narrator states that the two workers have exemplified good communication skills. This scenario may be well-written using immaculate language and great style, but with nothing to challenge the learner, it is not going to be effective. The learner, in all probability, will read and forget the scenario. Only when the learner faces some sort of challenging situation and has to think of a solution will the scenario be effective.
The best way to write concrete scenarios is to present a problem situation, provide some clues for the learners to identify, and then provide the answer. However, keep in mind the challenge should not overwhelm the learners to the extent that they abstain from putting any effort to find the solution.
5. Use Informal and Conversational Language: It is generally a good idea to use conversational and informal language while writing scenarios. Learners can easily relate to the conversational style and find it easier to engage with the content. It also makes the scenario interesting and informal, so learning happens in a comfortable way. While in some cases, the overview of the scenario presents in a narrative manner even then the tone and style should remaining formal.
6. Use Interesting Interactivities: Another useful tip to make the scenarios interesting and effective is to use as many interactivities as possible. The most common form of interactivity in this case will be questions and answers. However, other interactivities, if relevant to the content, can be used to increase the overall engagement of the learners.
7. Use Visual Graphics: Finally, a scenario becomes much more effective when it is presented with visuals. Scenarios are after all stories and stories are best presented through visual images. Characters, backgrounds, callouts, labels, and other graphics make it engaging and interesting for the learners. They can also retain information if they have visual memory of the content
The fable of George Washington and the cherry tree may never have happened, but the scenario presented is a realistic situation that children can relate to. The language of the story is interactive and visual, engaging the senses. George’s tough decision challenges us to think, ‘What would I have done?’ Finally, George’s integrity and reward from his father motivates the listener to stand by moral convictions, no matter the situation. That is why ‘George and the Cherry tree’ has been used for over a hundred years to extol the virtue of telling the truth.
Use these tips to write your own legendary scenario-based training, but remember, be careful with your hatchet and do not lie.