Simulation-Based Learning


Supporting learning with (typically simplified) simulations of complex real-world situations

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … applying
  • Learner is … an inquirer (individual)
  • Learning is … investigating
  • Teaching is … structuring experiences




A type of Active Learning or Inquiry-Based Learning, Simulation-Based Learning aims to support learner understanding through engagements with simulations of phenomenon under study. A simulation is reflective of a real-world situation in which operations must be conducted and decisions must be made. It typically omits distracting variables and irrelevant information, as it channels learner attention to and affords user control over critical aspects of the situation. Currently, it is most often encountered in adult-learning settings, and it has been used widely in medical, aviation, and military education.


Criticisms of Simulation-Based Learning are typically focused on issues associated with effective implementation. Prominent concerns revolve around avoiding oversimplification of complex matters while ensuring that novice learners are able to engage meaningfully, establish goals, and verbalize insights.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Robert Glaser; Ton de Jong

Status as a Theory of Learning

Simulation-Based Learning is not a theory of learning, although it is explicit about the theories of learning that it invokes.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Simulation-Based Learning is a theory of structuring experiences to influence learning, rendering it a theory of teaching in our analysis.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Simulation-Based Learning is a rapidly developing domain, as strategies evolve alongside supportive technologies. It is already associated with a significant body of research, and it is grounded in established and validated theories of learning.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Simulation-Based Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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