Simulating: Bridging the Gap Between Practice and Theory in Higher Professional Education

  • Yngve Nordkvelle
  • Odd Rune Stalheim
  • Trine Fossland
  • Thomas de Lange
  • Anne Line Wittek
  • Monika Bærøe NerlandEmail author


This chapter draws on three case studies of higher education courses conducted as part of the larger research project Quality of Norwegian Higher Education: Pathways, Practices and Performances. These cases had important elements of simulation in their curriculum as part of their nursing, law and management studies. We look more closely into how simulations are designed and used in these courses. The overall questions are: How are simulations used in these teaching practices, and in what ways do they serve to bridge the gap between theory and practice? Nursing education use sophisticated manikins, manipulated by specially trained nurses who interact with nursing students through, predominantly digital technologies as well as tactile hardware. They pose challenges to the students who try to develop mastery of procedures and handle the uncertainties that follow a “true” nursing situation. The management education course used a role play developed in-house with the purpose of training students to perform interviews and selecting candidates for hiring. The setup for simulation in law studies was to establish a stage for a trial court room, with students filling the roles of prosecutors and defenders and members of the audience. We discuss how the cases display risks and promises for the use of simulations in teaching practices in higher education, especially where potentials for knowledge integration are concerned.


Simulation Higher education Theory and practice Educational technology Role-play Moots Mock trials 


  1. Bradley, P. (2006). The history of simulation on medical education and possible future directions. Medical Education, 40(3), 254–262. Scholar
  2. Colley, S. (2003). Nursing theory: Its importance to practice. Nursing Standard, 17(46), 33–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Croxford, L. (2001). Global university education: Some cultural considerations. Higher Education in Europe, 26(1), 53–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Daly, Y. M., & Higgins, N. (2011). The place and efficacy of simulations in legal education: A preliminary examination. AISHE-J, 3(2), 1–20.Google Scholar
  5. Damsa, C., de Lange, T., Elken, M, Esterhazy, R., Fossland, T., Frølich, N., …, Aamodt, P. O. (2015). Quality in Norwegian higher education: A review of research on aspects affecting student learning. NIFU Report 2015: 24. Oslo: Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education.Google Scholar
  6. Eraut, M. (2008). Learning from other people in the workplace. In K. Hall, P. Murphy, & J. Soler (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice: Culture and identities (pp. 40–57). Los Angeles: Sage and The Open University.Google Scholar
  7. Gresalfi, M., & Barab, S. (2011). Learning for a reason: Supporting forms of engagement by designing tasks and orchestrating environments. Theory into Practice, 50(4), 300–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Harwood, J. (2010). Understanding academic drift: On the institutional dynamics of higher technical and professional education. Minerva, 48(4), 413–427. Scholar
  9. Hopwood, N. (2017). Practice architectures of simulation pedagogy: From fidelity to transformation. In K. Mahon, S. Francisco, & S. Kemmis (Eds.), Exploring education and professional practice (pp. 63–81). Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Iser, W. (1978). The act of reading. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  11. Jeffries, P. R. (2005). A framework for designing, implementing, and evaluating: Simulations used as teaching strategies in nursing. Nursing Education Perspectives, 26(2), 96–103.Google Scholar
  12. Jørgensen, S., Skyttermoen, T., & Syversen, T. L. (2013). I pose og sekk? Mot en prakademisk utdanning i organisasjons- og ledelsesfag—et studieutviklingsprosjekt som ble «kronet med gull» [Report from the design of a ‘pracademic’ program in management education]. In I. G. Bjørke, O. Eikeland, & H. Jarning (Eds.), Ny Praksis—ny kunnskap (pp. 211–226). Oslo: ABM Media.Google Scholar
  13. Keskitalo, T., & Ruokamo, H. (2016). Students’ expectations and experiences of meaningful simulation-based medical education. International Journal of Media, Technology and Lifelong Learning, 12(2), 110–123. Retrieved from
  14. Keys, B., & Wolfe, J. (1990). The role of management game and simulation in education and research. Journal of Management, 16(2), 307–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Labaree, D. F. (2006). Mutual subversion: A short history of the liberal and the professional in American higher education. History of Education Quarterly, 46(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2016). Epistemic fluency and professional education. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  17. NCHE (The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions). (2016). Kvalitet i praksisstudiene i helse- og sosialfaglig høyere utdanning: Praksisprosjektet. [Quality in the practice studies in health and social provision higher education. The practice project]. Oslo: Universitets- og høgskolerådet.Google Scholar
  18. Nerland, M., & Prøitz, T. S., Eds. (2018, January). Quality in higher education: Case studies of educational practices in eight courses. NIFU Report 2018:1. Oslo: Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education.Google Scholar
  19. NOU. (2015: 3). Advokaten i samfunnet—Lov om advokater og andre som yter rettslig bistand [The Lawyer in Society—The Law concerning lawyers and others who provide legal advice]. Oslo: Ministry of Justice and Public Security.Google Scholar
  20. Rall, M., & Dieckmann, P. (2005). Safety culture and crisis resource management in airway management: General principles to enhance patient safety in critical airway situations. Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology, 19(4), 539–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Reid-Searl, K., Eaton, A., Vieth, L., & Happell, B. (2011). The educator inside the patient: Students’ insights into the use of high fidelity silicone patient simulation. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20(19–20), 2752–2760. Scholar
  22. Roberts, D., & Greene, L. (2011). The theatre of high-fidelity simulation education. Nurse Education Today, 31(7), 694–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rule, A. C. (2006). Editorial: The components of authentic learning. Journal of Authentic Learning, 3(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  24. Schaffer, D. W. (2012). Models of situated action: Computer games and the problem of transfer. In C. Steinkuehler, K. Squire, & S. Barab (Eds.), Games, learning, and society: Learning and meaning in the digital age (pp. 403–431). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shulman, L. (2002). Making differences. A table of learning. Change, 34(6), 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tanner, C. A. (2004). The meaning of curriculum: Content to be covered or stories to be heard. Journal of Nursing Education, 43(1), 383–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tansey, P. J., & Unwin, D. (1969). Simulation and gaming in education. London: Methuen Educational.Google Scholar
  28. Thomas, H., & Wilson, A. D. (2011). “Physics envy”, cognitive legitimacy or practical relevance: Dilemmas in the evolution of management research in the UK. British Journal of Management, 22(3), 443–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tosterud, R. (2015a). Simulation used as a learning approach in nursing education. Students’ experiences and validation of evaluation questionnaires. Doctoral thesis, Karlstad University Studies, 2015: 1.Google Scholar
  30. Tosterud, R. (2015b). Simulering—en hensiktsmessig læringsmetode? [Simulating—A productive learning approach?]. In T. Ødegården, S. Struksnes, & B. Hofmann (Eds.), Pasientsimulering i helsefag: en praktisk innføring (pp. 78–87). Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yngve Nordkvelle
    • 1
  • Odd Rune Stalheim
    • 1
  • Trine Fossland
    • 2
  • Thomas de Lange
    • 3
  • Anne Line Wittek
    • 3
  • Monika Bærøe Nerland
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Inland Norway University of Applied SciencesElverumNorway
  2. 2.UiT The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  3. 3.University of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations