#LTHEchat 156 ’Simulation as an assessment tool to promote authentic learning in Higher Education’ with Gustavo Espinoza Ramos @tavoer8

Authentic assessment

The traditional forms of assessment are based on conventional methods of testing that usually involves the production of written document including tests, essays and reports; and follow the transmission of knowledge from teacher to learner that creates a passive learning atmosphere (Herrington and Herrington, 2006). The criticism of this assessment rests upon the level of knowledge and transferable skills that can be applied in other contexts and it does not meet the needs of a “dynamic and changing workforce” (Herrington and Herrington, 2006, p.69). For that reason, alternative assessment methods have been developed. One of them is Authentic Assessment (AA) that involves the application of knowledge and skills in real-life settings (UNSW, n.d.). AA enhances the synergy between knowledge/content and skills that traditionally were viewed as mutually exclusive, and it can be integrated and applied across different disciplines in higher education including arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Examples of AA include completion of a real-world tasks, assessment in a workplace setting, and role-play or simulation. This week’s chat focuses on the latter example.


Simulation or a simulation game is a computer-generated reality (Longstreet and Cooper, 2012) that recreates a real, complex problem-solving exercise where students have to interact, developing judgement and make decisions over complex issues. This online environment promotes a space where students can make mistakes safely and systematically in order to learn; and allows the visualisation of the effects from their own decisions in a relatively controlled environment (Peacock, 1981; Rooney et al., 2015). Hence, simulation facilitates an active, engaging and fun environment, which represents an alternative to traditional assessment types.

Another important characteristic of simulation is that it allows students to receive rapid feedback of their results after completing the game or in debriefing sessions when educators guide students to reflect on their performance, the process and their roles when taking decisions (Petranek et al., 1992). As a result, simulations integrate three domains of learning (Breckwoldt et al., 2014): Cognitive or knowledge; Affective, or the growth in feelings or emotional areas; and Psychomotor, which are the manual or physical skills (Bloom, 1956). Simulation games have been used in social, natural and applied sciences including engineering, medicine, law and business.

Despite its benefits, simulation games have been subject of criticism due to the lack of research in simulation pedagogy (Dieckmann, 2009), the insufficient solid evidence to show how complex and real is the created environment (Poikela, Paula|Teräs, 2015), its effectiveness in comparison to real experiments or field work, and the application in other academic disciplines such as humanities.


There are some examples of simulation games, including:

Ecology, using The Ecology Game (Tribe and Peacock, 1976) that allows students in groups of between 6-8 members, to research the changes in flora and fauna in Britain by analysing two photographs from areas taken before and after the changes occurred (Peacock, 1981).

A level-6 module in a UK business school that uses a simulation game as part of a group summative assessment. The game is based on a car manufacturer, in which students have to take weekly business decisions submitting a spreadsheet. The game is centred on financial and operational indicators in the spreadsheet. So, the students will not see a live representation of the company or the manufacturing process. There is an individual assessment in which students reflect and apply theoretical concepts of the group dynamics and strategic theories when taking decisions in the simulation.

A level-5 module in a UK business school that uses a simulation game as an individual formative assessment. Students have to play A game individually on the PC, where they can see a factory and they need to manage the operations to complete the production of six products. Students are not marked based on the final results of the game but in an individual report where they need to apply theoretical concepts covered in the module when they takedecisions and reflect on their performance.

Reference list

Bloom, B. S. (Benjamin S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives; the classification of educational goals,. 2nd edition. Addison-Wesley Longman.

Breckwoldt, J. et al. (2014) ‘Simulation Learning’, in H. Gruber S. Billett, C. Harteis (ed.) International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning. [Online]. Springer. pp. 673–698.

Dieckmann, P. (2009) ‘Simulation settings for learning in acute medical care’, in P. Dieckmann (ed.) Using simulations for education, training and research. 1st edition Lengerich: Pabst. pp. 40–138.

Herrington, A. & Herrington, J. (2006) ‘What is an Authentic Learning Environment?’, in Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education. [Online]. IGI Global. pp. 1–14.

Longstreet, C. S. & Cooper, K. (2012) ‘A meta-model for developing simulation games in higher education and professional development training’, in 2012 17th International Conference on Computer Games (CGAMES). [Online]. July 2012 IEEE. pp. 39–44. [online]. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6314549/ (Accessed 30 May 2018).

Peacock, D. (1981) A simulation exercise on scientific research for use in undergraduate teaching. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. [Online] 5 (2), 139–143.

Petranek, C. F. et al. (eds.) (1992) ‘Three Levels of Learning in Simulations: Participating, Debriefing, and Journal Writing’, in Simulation & Gaming. [Online]. Sage PublicationsSage CA: Thousand Oaks, CA. pp. 174–185.

Poikela, Paula|Teräs, M. (2015) A Scoping Review: Conceptualizations and Pedagogical Models of Learning in Nursing Simulation. Educational Research and Reviews. 10 (8), 1023–1033.

Rooney, D. et al. (2015) The Role of Simulation in Pedagogies of Higher Education for the Health Professions: Through a Practice-Based Lens. Vocations and Learning. [Online] 8 (3), 269–285.

Tribe, M. A. & Peacock, D. (1976) The ecology game. Cambridge Univ. Press.

UNSW (n.d.) Assessing Authentically [online]. Available from: https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/authentic-assessment (Accessed 13 October 2019).


Gustavo R. Espinoza-Ramos holds a BSc in Business and Information Technology, and an MSc in Mining Engineering. His working experience in the mining industry and self-motivation underpinned his decision to undertake part-time PhD course at University of Westminster since January 2015. His research interests are centred on topics related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the formation of social partnerships between private companies and civil society in developing countries. He is an enthusiastic lecturer at the Westminster Business and Law Schools teaching modules related CSR, business ethics, sustainable business and corporate strategy, both at an undergraduate and master levels.

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/gustavoespinozaramos

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