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close this bookTrainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)
close this folderPart III - Workshop learning components
View the documentOverview
View the documentReading
View the documentPresentations
View the documentDiscussions
View the documentStructured exercises
View the documentCase study
View the documentRole playing
View the documentSimulations
View the documentInstruments


An effective way to dramatize real-life situations is to simulate or recreate them in a workshop setting. Simulations are simplified models of a process that is to be learned. Through simulation, workshop participants can experience what it is like to take part in the process and can experience their own behaviours relative to it in a safe environment, thereby avoiding many of the risks associated with real-life experimentation.

Simulations are sometimes used to involve participants in the manipulation of physical objects to study how they make decisions. One example is being asked to work as a team member on the construction of a tower under time and resource restrictions in competition with other teams. The intent is to examine questions of planning, organization, and the assumption of leadership within newly-formed teams. Another example is being asked to make quick decisions, as a newly-appointed manager, on how to delegate or otherwise dispose of a stack of correspondence left behind by a previous manager (an in-basket exercise). The intent of this kind of simulation is to investigate how an individual sets priorities, delegates authority, and generally manages time.

In The Councillor as Decision-maker, workshop participants are confronted with a simulated town council meeting at which a decision must be made on the use of a large sum of money in the face of strongly contrasted and competing demands from various community groups. This simulation is meant to explore the way decisions are made in relation to certain models of decision-making. As with role plays and case studies, simulations depend for their learning value on the authenticity of the situations and the degree of realism provided by participants taking part. What has been said earlier in the guide about setting up the situation and being sure everyone knows what he or she is supposed to be doing applies equally to your trainer role in producing successful simulations.

In summary, simulations are workshop representations of situations likely to face participants in their real-life roles. They allow participants to practice with new ways of doing things and learn more about their own behaviour in role-relevant situations with a minimum of personal or professional risk.