One of the most common mistakes I see in scenario-based learning is using feedback to tell learners what was right or wrong instead of showing them.
Example scenario with “telling” feedback
Take the following example of a branching scenario to practice counseling someone on dietary choices. One mistake learners can make in the scenario is setting a goal that is too difficult. If the learners recommend a goal of cutting out all added sugar and soda, you could simply tell them they’re wrong and why it’s a bad choice like this:
“Sorry, that’s incorrect. If a goal is too difficult, it can reduce motivation. A smaller interim goal may have a better chance of success.”
In scenarios, it’s usually better to avoid immediately and explicitly stating that a choice is right or wrong. That breaks the realism of the scenario and makes it an academic exercise rather than a practice simulation.
Example scenario with “showing” feedback
Instead of just telling learners that it’s a bad choice, you can show them the consequences of their decision. In this example, I used both the dialogue showing the response of the person being counseled and his facial expression.
I selected a character from the eLB asset library and picked five poses with a range of expressions from upset to happy. This is one place where it’s critical to have photos showing more than the standard stock photo happy expressions. For each response in the branching scenario, I determined the motivation level on a five-point scale and matched the corresponding photo to the response.
Showing feedback beyond expressions and dialogue
For many scenarios, the dialogue and expression of the person would be enough to show whether or not the choice was right, wrong, or somewhere in between. Sometimes you need additional feedback though. Because this scenario deals with an invisible factor (motivation), I created an additional consequence with a motivation meter. The level of motivation increases and decreases depending on the choices the learner makes. This is another way to show consequences within the context of the scenario without becoming so academic as to say “Sorry, that’s incorrect.”
When to provide direct coaching or instructional feedback
If your learners are novices, you may still need to provide coaching or instructional feedback about their choices. I prefer to use a coach for that instructional feedback to maintain some realism, and I always pair that instructional feedback with consequences that are shown to the learners.
It’s also helpful to provide direct instructional feedback after the learner fails a scenario, before they restart it to try again. That moment right after a failure, just before they make another attempt, is key to understanding and improving decision-making skills. If the learner has failed, then the consequences you showed weren’t enough for them to interpret and adjust their choices. They need something more direct and explicit.
How do you handle feedback in branching scenarios? Do you have a great example of how you showed learners consequences rather than simply telling them they were right or wrong?
Originally published 1/14/2016. Updated 8/17/2023.
Tuesday, October 31, 3:00 PM EDT: Level Up Your Elearning: Character Creation for Scenario-Based Learning. Part of TLDC’s free event From Instructional Design to Dungeons & Dragons: The Chronicles of Educaria.
In Dungeons & Dragons, character creation is the foundation of epic storytelling. In learning and development, the creation of characters plays a pivotal role in scenario-based learning. For this session, you will complete activities focused on shaping character backstories, defining their objectives, and constructing challenges that spark curiosity and foster learning. Learn tips for creating characters who are both relevant to your training context and interesting enough to spark attention. A good character for scenario-based learning is one your learners can identify with and that draws them into the story. Just like in RPGs, creating characters for workplace training scenarios requires a bit of imagination. Plan to actively participate in this session and practice creating both protagonists or player characters (PCs) and additional non-player characters (NPCs).