On the bridge to learn: Analysing the social organization of nautical instruction in a ship simulator

  • Magnus HontvedtEmail author
  • Hans Christian Arnseth


Research on simulator training has rarely focused on the way simulated contexts are constructed collaboratively. This study sheds light on how structuring role-play and fostering social interactions may prove fruitful for designing simulator training. The article reports on a qualitative study of nautical students training in a ship simulator. The study examines how a group of students, together with a professional maritime pilot, enacted professional roles and collaboratively constructed a simulated context for learning to navigate. Their activities on the bridge were framed within the maritime profession’s hierarchical system of captain and officers, and we examine in detail how these institutionally defined positions become important resources for meaning-making during role-play. The article portrays how two competing activity contexts were constructed, and how the role-play provided opportunities for enacting professional roles and work tasks. However, it also shows that it is challenging to pick up on what is significant to learn and to confront this in debriefing. The article concludes that the students’ collaboration and meaning-making is an entity of training that may be more efficiently addressed.


Simulator training Role-play Activity contexts Simulations Interaction analysis 



We would like to thank Elisabeth Stokoe for her valuable comments on data transcripts and for sharing her insights on role-playing as communicative activity. We also would like to thank David Middleton and Anniken Furberg for their positive and constructive comments on an early presentation of data at a seminar on interaction analysis at Intermedia, University of Oslo. We are also in debt to Karianne Skovholt, Marit Skarbø, and Susanne Knudsen for valuable feedback on earlier drafts. Finally, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


  1. ABS (American Bureau of Shipping Technical Report). (2004). ABS review and analysis of accident databases: 1991–2002 data. American Bureau of Shipping Technical Report: SAHF 2003–5.1, March 2004.Google Scholar
  2. Alessi, S. M. (1988). Fidelity in the design of instructional simulations. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 15(2), 40–47.Google Scholar
  3. Arnseth, H. C., & Ludvigsen, S. R. (2006). Approaching institutional contexts: Systemic versus dialogic research in CSCL. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1(2), 167–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker, A., Jensen, P., & Kolb, D. A. (1997). In conversation: Transforming experience into learning. Simulation & Gaming, 28, 6–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barnett, M. L. (2004). Risk management training: The development of simulator-based scenarios from the analysis of recent maritime accidents. In Proceedings of the Advances in International Maritime Research Conference. Tasmania: IAMU.Google Scholar
  6. Barnett, M. L., Gatfield, D. I., & Pekcan, C. H. (2006). Non-technical skills: The vital ingredient in world maritime technology? In Proceedings of the International Conference on World Maritime Technology. London: Institute of Marine Engineering, Science, and Technology.Google Scholar
  7. Brandt, E. (2008). “En utdanning du kommer langt med”—maritim utdanning i videregående skoler, fagskoler og høyskoler. Rapport 18/2008. Oslo: NIFU STEP.Google Scholar
  8. Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brydges, R., Carnahan, H., Rose, D., Rose, L., & Dubrowski, A. (2010). Coordinating progressive levels of simulation fidelity to maximize educational benefit. Academic Medicine, 85(5), 806–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, A. (2006). Cognitive apprenticeship. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 47–60). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. De la Croix, A., & Skelton, J. (2009). The reality of role-play: Interruptions and amount of talk in simulated consultations. Medical Education, 43(7), 695–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dillenbourg, P., Järvelä, S., & Fischer, F. (2009). The evolution of research on computer-supported collaborative learning: From design to orchestration. Technology-Enhanced Learning, Part I, 3–19.Google Scholar
  13. Duranti, A., & Goodwin, C. (Eds.). (1992). Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Endsley, M. R. (1995a). Measurement of situation awareness in dynamic systems. Human Factors, 37(1), 65–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Endsley, M. R. (1995b). Toward a theory of situation awareness in dynamic systems. Human Factors, 37(1), 32–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.Google Scholar
  17. Fanning, R. M., & Gaba, D. M. (2007). The role of debriefing in simulation-based learning. Simulation in Healthcare, 2(2), 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fidelity. (n.d.). In Oxford dictionaries. Retrieved 9.9.2012 from
  19. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  20. Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional vision. American Anthropologist, 96(3), 606–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodwin, C. (1995). Seeing in depth. Social Studies of Science, 25(2), 237–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goodwin, C., & Duranti, A. (1992). Rethinking context: An introduction. In A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Greeno, J. G. (1997). On claims that answer the wrong questions. Educational Researcher, 26(1), 5–17.Google Scholar
  24. Hollnagel, E. (2011). Simulator studies: The next best thing? In A. B. Skjerve & A. Bye (Eds.), Simulator-based human factors studies across 25 years. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  25. Hood, L., McDermott, R., & Cole, M. (1980). “Let’s try to make it a good day”—some not so simple ways. Discourse Processes, 2(3), 155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hutchins, E., & Klausen, T. (1996). Distributed cognition in an airline cockpit. In D. Middleton & Y. Engeström (Eds.), Communication and cognition at work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hutchins, E., & Palen, L. (1997). Constructing meaning from space, gesture, and speech. In L. B. Resnick, R. Säljo, C. Pontecorvo, & B. Burge (Eds.), Discourse, tools, and reasoning: Essays on situated cognition (pp. 24–40). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation (pp. 13–31). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  30. Johnson, E. (2007). Surgical simulators and simulated surgeons: Reconstituting medical practice and practitioners in simulations. Social Studies of Science, 37(4), 585–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jordan, B., & Henderson, A. (1995). Interaction analysis: Foundations and practice. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 4(1), 39–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koschmann, T. (Ed.). (1996). CSCL: Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  33. Koschmann, T. (2002). Dewey’s contribution to the foundations of CSCL research. In G. Stahl (Ed.), Proceedings of CSCL 2002: Foundations for a CSCL community (pp. 17–22). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  34. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leontev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  36. Linell, P. (1998). Approaching dialogue. Talk, interaction and contexts in dialogical perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  37. Linell, P. (2009). Rethinking language, mind and world dialogically: Interactional and contextual theories of human sense-making. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  38. Linell, P., & Persson Thunqvist, D. (2003). Moving in and out of framings: Activity contexts in talks with young unemployed people within a training project. Journal of Pragmatics, 35(3), 409–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mathieu, J. E., Heffner, T. S., Goodwin, G. F., Salas, E., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2000). The influence of shared mental models on team process and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(2), 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McDermott, R. (1977). Social relations as contexts for learning in school. Harvard Educational Review, 47(2), 198–213.Google Scholar
  41. Middleton, D., & Engeström, Y. (Eds.). (1996). Communication and cognition at work. Beverly Hills: Sage Books.Google Scholar
  42. Ochs, E. (1979). Introduction: What child language can contribute to pragmatics. In E. Ochs & B. Schieffelin (Eds.), Developmental pragmatics. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  43. Petraglia, J. (1998). The real world on a short leash: The (mis)application of constructivism to the design of educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 46(3), 53–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rehmann, A. J., Mitman, R., & Reynolds, M. (1995). A handbook of flight simulation fidelity requirements for human factors research (Technical Report No. DOT/FAA/CT-TN95/46). Wright-Patterson, AFB, OH: Crew Systems Ergonomics Information Analysis Center.Google Scholar
  45. Rystedt, H. (2002). Bridging practices: Simulations in education for the health-care professions. PhD-thesis. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Google Scholar
  46. Rystedt, H., & Lindwall, O. (2004). The interactive construction of learning foci in simulation­based learning environments: A case study of an anaesthesia course. PsychNology Journal, 2(2), 168–188.Google Scholar
  47. Rystedt, R., & Sjöblom, B. (2012). Realism, authenticity, and learning in healthcare simulations: Rules of relevance and irrelevance as interactive achievement. Instructional Science, 40(5), 785–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Salas, E., Wilson, K. A., Burke, C. S., & Wightman, D. C. (2006). Does crew resource management training work? An update, an extension, and some critical needs. Human Factors, 48(2), 392–412. doi: 10.1518/001872006777724444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schegloff, E. A. (1991). Reflections on talk and social structure. In D. Boden & D. Zimmerman (Eds.), Talk and social structure: Studies in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis (pp. 44–70). Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  50. Seale, C., Butler, C., Hutchby, I., Kinnersley, P., & Rollnick, S. (2007). Negotiating frame ambiguity: A study of simulated encounters in medical education. Communication & Medicine, 4(2), 177–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stokoe, E. (2011). Simulated interaction and communication skills training: The ‘Conversation analytic role-play method’. In C. Antaki (Ed.), Applied conversation analysis: Changing institutional practices. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  52. Suthers, D. (2006). Technology affordances for intersubjective meaning-making: A research agenda for CSCL. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1(3), 315–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vicente, K. (2006). The human factor: Revolutionizing the way people live with technology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  54. Vincenzi, D., Wise, J. A., Mouloua, M., & Hancock, P. A. (Eds.). (2009). Human factors in simulation and training. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  55. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society. In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & G. Wells (Eds) (1993), ‘Re-evaluating the IRF sequence: A proposal for the articulation of theories of activity and discourse for the analysis of teaching and learning in the classroom.’ Linguistics in Education, 5(1), 1–37.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PedagogyVestfold University CollegeToensbergNorway
  2. 2.Department of Educational ResearchUniversity of Oslo, NorwayOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations