Simulations have long been used in medical and administrative training programs and have proven to be an effective tool to foster the critical reasoning and effective collaboration necessary for tackling complex problems. Simulating the authentic work of the principal gives the participants experience leading a team to a product and working under tight deadlines, an opportunity to practice distributive leadership, and the skill of self-assessing and getting feedback on their practice.
Simulated schools also offer the benefit of a controlled, low-risk environment that introduces participants to the types of challenges they will face as school leaders in real time—without immediate consequences for actual schools, teachers, or students. The simulation school highlights the interconnectedness of school issues. In living the job, participants experience how their mental models shape their perceptions and actions; how their actions play out in schools, including unanticipated consequences; how feedback loops operate; and how an understanding of system dynamics can help identify the most promising levers for change and points for intervention. Constant scrutiny, feedback, and time pressures are centerpieces of the experience, as participants learn to cope with unexpected challenges while working toward strict deadlines, all under the microscope of observation.