A dramaturgical perspective on simulation

In this talk for the MA Teaching and Learning with Simulation at the Institute of Education, University of London in Feb 2012 I will introduce dramaturgical metaphors to analyze simulation. Drawing on the sociological work of Erving Goffman we will look at simulations as performances, using terms such as front and back stage, props, scripts, parts, and characters to describe how people prepare for, act in, and respond to simulation. We will compare performances in simulation with performing in everyday (professional) life –say, the shows that are put up by hosts and guests, or service providers and clients, to tease out what, if anything at all, is distinctly different about the way we interact and learn in simulation. Using video clips of surgical simulations we will address questions such as, How do people present themselves in and out of simulation? Who directs the performance? Who are the members of the audience? How do people sustain the impression that they are engaged in professional activity? What makes people act out of character? What are the tacit agreements underlying participation in simulation? Using this dramaturgical framework we reflect on the potentialities and limitations of simulation for learning and teaching, and on the ways in which these potentialities and constraints are currently measured in medical educational research.

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