The advantages of multi-exemplar training and variable practice — which, in simple terms, refers to the use of multiple examples when teaching a subject — are well proven in the education sphere, but how does this type of variable practice relate to learning essential soft skills in the workplace?
When conducting training for a variety of corporate functions such as leadership, sales, customer service, and diversity & inclusion programs, HR and learning & development professionals are faced with several challenges: How can I keep employees engaged and involved in their learning? How can I ensure the training is valuable and, most of all, retained for ongoing growth and long-term success?
The Science of Learning
Soft skills training — unlike the tangible mastery of hard skills — addresses the enhancement of our more human qualities. Proficiency in areas like leadership, problem solving, adaptability, and communication may seem hard to pinpoint and even harder to train.
As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts covering Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchical educational framework where the higher levels of learning are attained by mastering the lower levels, the ability to draw connections between ideas (analyze), justify a decision (evaluate), and produce new concepts (create) is paramount when improving one’s interpersonal skill set. The lower levels of learning — recalling facts (remember) and repeating theories (understand) — clearly won’t cut it.
Beyond Multiple Choice
Multi-exemplar variable practice requires the learner to completely immerse oneself in the task at hand because of its very nature — you can’t predict what’s to come. The various examples employed can’t be memorized, therefore the learner needs to fully engage to grasp the content.
In a study exploring the use of multi-exemplar training to teach empathy skills in children with autism, researchers found that the variability of the stimuli presented encouraged a range of appropriate empathetic responses. As in real-world settings, the subjects were placed in diverse situations in order to anticipate and eventually normalize their reactions, producing feelings of confidence and control over their emotions and environments.
How Virtual Reality Creates Desirable Variables
Virtual reality simulations are a powerful tool in soft skills training because they can provide those variable situations that allow a learner to practice their responses in an iterative way.
Mursion’s human-in-the-loop virtual reality simulations take this immersive learning even further. Interactions with lifelike avatars are guided by simulation specialists who react in real time, changing the training scenario and their responses during each session so the learner is alert. By activating different capabilities as the situation necessitates, the learner is able to practice and master a variety of leadership skills.
This far from one-size-fits-all learning; in dynamic VR simulations, the learner is compelled to interact, engage, and adapt to create an opportunity for meaningful, deep-rooted advancements.
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