The power of a university classroom-based simulation learning task

Year: 2016

Author: McCormack, Silvia, Saeed, Nauman, Henry, Darren

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In this research study, the effectiveness of a classroom-based simulation is explored in finance education. Although simulation tasks are becoming increasingly common in higher education, few research studies have been carried out describing the effectiveness of simulations in the finance discipline. Teams of students were required to undertake a negotiated business sale and/or purchase, and to apply their acquired discipline knowledge, skills and graduate capabilities such as problem-solving, communication and personal and professional skills to an activity linked to the real world of finance. The activity was based on the constructivist theory of learning. Birenbaum (1996, p. 6) outlines that in the constructivist theory of learning, the learner is involved in the active construction of ‘schemas’ or ‘frameworks’ in order to understand and create meaning or interpret or understand the world. New information is either ‘assimilated’ into the existing schema or the existing schema is ‘reframed’ or modified to ‘accommodate’ the new experiences. The way the learner embeds the new information in his memory and thinks with it brings about learning (Biggs, 1999; Trigwell & Prosser, 1996). The classroom-based simulation activity allowed students to activate their prior learning and examine and test their beliefs and theories to meet the demands of the new experience or challenge presented. Through this process students reflected, gained feedback and examined their actions from varied perspectives. Opportunities were provided to allow students to integrate the more enhanced ideas into their ‘frameworks’ and begin to apply these modified ‘frameworks’ to new situations presented. The effectiveness of the simulation activity is evaluated on four criteria. Firstly, its utility as a learning task in a university classroom setting is assessed using Biggs’ Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes. Secondly, its effectiveness in encouraging student engagement is evaluated through a conceptual organiser developed by Zepke and Leach (2010). Thirdly, the particular graduate capabilities that are applied are analysed. Finally, an assessment is made, from student interview responses, as to whether the graduate capabilities developed through this activity were extended by graduates to the workplace. An interpretive paradigm with a case study approach is used to provide a basis for explanation and interpretation. Interviews with students enrolled in the subject and graduates of the subject now in the work-place were undertaken. These data along with statistical information and relevant policy documents were analysed and interpreted to generate the findings.