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Learning to navigate: the centrality of instructions and assessments for developing students’ professional competencies in simulator-based training

Journal article
Authors Charlott Sellberg
Olle Lindmark
Hans Rystedt
Published in WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs
Volume 17
Issue 2
Pages 249–265
ISSN 1651-436X
Publication year 2018
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 249–265
Language en
Keywords Maritime education and training (MET); Simulator-based training; Instruction; Assessment; Debriefing
Subject categories Other Engineering and Technologies, Educational Sciences


Despite the promises of simulations to contribute to learning in safe-critical domains, research suggests that simulators are poorly implemented in maritime education and training systems. From the current state of research, it is far from evident how instruction in simulator-based should be designed and how skills trained in bridge simulators should be assessed and connected to professional practice. On this background, this article aims to investigate the role of instructions and assessments for developing students’ professional competencies in simulation-based learning environments. The research draws on ethnographic fieldwork and detailed analyses of video-recorded data to examine how maritime instructors make use of simulator technologies in a navigation course. Our results reveal an instructional practice in which the need to account for general principles of good seamanship and anti-collision regulations is at the core of basic navigation training. The meanings of good seamanship and the rules of the sea are hard to teach in abstraction because their application relies on an infinite number of contingencies that have to be accounted for in every specific case. Based on this premise, we stress the importance of instructional support throughout training (from briefing thorough scenario to debriefing) in order for the instructor to bridge theory and practice in ways that develop students’ competencies. Our results highlight, in detail, how simulator technologies enable displaying and assessing such competencies by supporting instructors to continuously monitor, assess, and provide feedback to the students during training sessions. Moreover, our results show how simulator-based training is related to the work conditions on board a seagoing vessel through the instructor’s systematic accomplishments. Finally, our results highlight the close relationship between technical and non-technical skills in navigation, and how these are intertwined in training for everyday maritime operations.

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