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Learning in simulation: theorizing Ricoeur in a study involving paramedics, pilots, and others Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Essington, Timothy Don
Supervisor and department
Chovanec, Donna (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
Abdi, Ali (Educational Policy Studies)
Fenwick, Tara (Stirling Institute of Education, University of Stirling)
Taylor, Alison (Educational Policy Studies)
King, Sharla (Educational Psychology)
English, Leona (St. Francis Xavier University)
Department of Educational Policy Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The use of simulation is becoming increasingly important in the education of practitioners whose field of work contains a low tolerance for error. In aerospace, aviation, medicine, paramedicine, and the military, simulations are expected to provide working practitioners with “on demand” experience. However, the ways in which learning emerges out of simulation have been poorly understood. This research provides insight into the processes of learning that are generated and the forms of knowledge that arise out of learning endeavors based upon the use of simulation. This study employed a form of naturalistic inquiry. Eight individuals from seven domains of work were extensively interviewed regarding their simulation experience. Conceptually, the methods are premised upon Patton’s (2002) understanding of qualitative inquiry, Van Manen’s (1997) phenomenological approach to lived experience, and Ricoeur’s hermeneutical approach to the interpretation of the text. Ricoeur’s (1986) conceptualization of ideology and utopia as a dialectic which comprises the social imaginary and Kearney’s (2003) analysis of the Other inform the analysis. It is the central finding of this study that experience in simulation is consistently interpreted to be both real and an imagination of the real. Experiential learning has at least five dimensions: purpose, interpretation, engagement, self, and context (Fenwick, 2003) all of which are affected in the pedagogical activity of simulation. The learning that emerges out of simulation always involves the social imaginary. Simulation forces an engagement with the symbolic nature of the social imaginary, and it is because a specific aspect of the social imaginary is reproduced in simulation that a need for interpretation is provoked and learning occurs. This study is theoretically significant because it adds to the academic literature through an improved understanding of simulation as a complex entanglement of the real and the imaginary. Practical significance lies in understanding the effective use of simulation as a pedagogical tool which can inform or reify the existing dimensions of experiential learning. Overall, the study contributes to our knowledge about how learning emerges out of simulation and how simulation fosters such an emergence.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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