Scenario-based Training: Immerse Your Learners in Critical Thinking

Immersive learning can be very effective in imparting knowledge, and one of the best ways to immerse learners in subject matter is by using scenario-based learning. When the aim of training is changing learner behaviour – teaching them to conduct themselves or perform a process in a particular way – scenario-based training is a very effective approach.

Scenario-based learning is a way of teaching or practicing a skill using virtual, interactive, problem-based contexts. It uses the “active learning” approach. As it uses real-life situations, it provides a relatable and relevant learning experience to the learners. Not only does it provide higher learner engagement as scenarios depict real-life situations, thus making them relatable, but it also provides a safe environment for learners to practice and understand the consequences of their actions through experiential learning.

One of the most effective forms of experiential learning are branching scenarios. Branching scenarios are interactive and choice based. Each new screen presents a different situation and asks the learner to make a decision. Learners are then able to see the consequences of their choices, whether good or bad, and the scenario progresses to the next situation.

From a learning and development (L&D) perspective it features the usage of real-life situations and is used by L&D teams to:

  • Validate learning.
  • Facilitate the application of learning.
  • Trigger and drive behavioural change.
  • Facilitate decision making.
  • Increase critical thinking skills.

From the perspective of learners, it provides:

  • Situations that are relatable (as real-life situations are depicted).
  • A problem-solving environment.
  • A decision-making tool that provides an understanding of the consequences of their decisions and choices.
  • A safe space to practice.
  • An approach to hone their skills and achieve higher levels of proficiency.

There are several advantages to scenario-based learning.

Learner-centric approach: Scenario-based learning helps learners transfer information to the workplace. It shows employees how to apply the skills acquired in real-life job situations rather than merely presenting theoretical information. This strategy strengthens the skills and improves the weak areas of employees, assisting them in improving their performance at work. You can read more about learner-centricity here.

Consequences of failure: We all learn from our mistakes. When learners make mistakes, they usually remember them. Scenario-based learning offers the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, in a risk-free environment. Scenario-based learning shows the consequences of every wrong step taken, giving learners the opportunity to know why they are wrong. This goes a long way in helping employees avoid similar mistakes at work.

Critical thinking: Scenario-based learning is very effective in stimulating the analytical skills of learners. It puts learners’ critical thinking abilities to work and expects them to find a solution to the problem presented. It triggers the brain to ask questions such as why, how, and what, as it presents relevant scenarios for learners to interact with and puzzle through. Scenario-based instruction keeps learners engaged because more parts of their brain are actively involved.

Relevant context: Scenario-based learning is based on situations that employees face daily in the workplace. Such scenarios build a personal connection with employees as they will find themselves in a familiar environment. The familiarity of the context presented in the scenario helps learners connect to their work and the situations they might face. Relevance gives learners a reason to pay attention.

But how do you write scenarios that are both believable and effective? Here are a few tips:

Understand the learners: To write effective scenarios it is necessary to understand learners and to know their needs and expectations. Understand the skills that they already possess 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 that is either too boring or too complex to achieve the desired results.

Create real life and relevant situations: Be sure to make your scenarios as real and relevant as possible. A scenario tells a story accompanied by questions that prompt the learner to respond. The learner will not relate to the scenario unless they find them relevant and believable. Only realistic situations can engage the learner and help them retain useful information, so make your fictional scenarios as real and relevant as you can.

Challenge the learner: Scenarios may be well written and stylish, but unless there’s something to challenge the learner, they will not be suitably engaged. Only when the learner faces some sort of challenging situation and must think of a solution will the scenario be effective. Present a problem situation, provide some clues for the learners to identify, and then provide the answer. Keep in mind the challenge should not overwhelm learners to the degree that they stop putting any effort into figuring out the solution.

Use interactivities: Use as many interactivities as possible. The most common form of interactivity includes questions and answers. However, other interactivities, if relevant to the content, can be used to increase the overall engagement of the learners.

Use graphics: A scenario becomes much more effective when it is sprinkled with visuals. Scenarios are stories after all, and stories are best presented through visual imagery. Learners retain information better if they have a visual memory of the content.

Scenario-based learning helps learners handle situations more effectively. It helps reinforce knowledge and boost retention. It also helps employees sharpen skills such as critical thinking and decision making.


Written by Rob Ewart


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