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Can you use social experiments in your training interventions?

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

At a CCCE* webinar, I shared my journey from traditional-to-flipped classroom-to-social experiments as a pedagogical (or to be more precise, andragogical) modality.

This journey started when I was first introduced to the Kinicki book I was going to use for my Organizational Behaviour class. I taught in both undergrad and post-grad, and though I had a slightly different book in post-grad, the content was similar. Both had about 448 pages littered with concepts and models that students were expected to remember and apply. The challenges included examples that were unrelatable to the average student thereby creating a barrier to learning. There was a challenge on just rote memory rather than critical thinking because of the enormity of the content being delivered. There was a challenge on becoming a lecturer rather than a facilitator of dialogue, which caused angst especially for those wanting to keep up. Even with my intention of creating a more relatable and cohesive class structure, the class' knowledge retention was just slightly above average. I needed to have a different approach on how to impart this information.

So I looked through various modalities that we've used in the past: flipped classrooms, simulations, gamification, active learning, etc. but none seem to approximate corporate environments with all it's twists and turns. Unfortunately humans are sometimes messy and unpredictable and not always as structured as what we've seen in our role-play exercises. There had to be another modality.... thus the idea of using "social experiments."

I knew this would take time and I had to test the idea via smaller-scale exercises at first. Then as I gained more information, I would scaffold them and soon this modality became a study on it's own and the results were then presented in this session. Do check it out... and yes it is an hour-long session but how else would you know what happened in this photo below if you didn't watch it, right?

I presented the initial findings at the College Association for Language and Literacy (CALL) conference after about 222 students have gone through the "social experiments OB class" because of an aha moment that I didn't expect. The session video will share with you what that aha moment was for me.

This andragogical modality will continue to be leveraged in future OB classes. I'm also incorporating my learning from this study to a federal grant I received recently in developing a Canadian workplace culture program for newcomers. (more on that at a future post). For now, if you are interested in leveraging my expertise on this for your own training programs, just contact me at ryap {at} georgebrown {dot} ca.

Below is a video I created to showcase an example of a social experiment. Unfortunately during filming there was a rainstorm which prevented us from conducting this outside our classroom, like we normally do. The title were models being tested for a particular activity the students were doing. BTW I pre-recorded the instructions so students ergo the earbuds.

Additional readings:

Beus, J. M., & Whitman, D. S. (2012). The relationship between typical and maximum performance: A meta-analytic examination. Human Performance, 25(5), 355–376. 10.1080/08959285.2012.721831

Effron, et. al. (Nov 2018) Group cohesion benefits individuals who express prejudice, but harms their group. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 79, 239-251

Elson, S.B., et. al. (2018) Critical Analytic Thinking Skills: Do They Predict Job-Related Task Performance Above and Beyond General Intelligence?, Personnel Assessment and Decisions: Vol. 4 : Iss. 1 , Article 2. DOI: 10.25035/pad.2018.002 Retrieved from

Markle, R., Brenneman, M., Jackson, T., Burrus, J., & Robbins, S. (2013). Synthesizing frameworks of higher education student learning outcomes (Research Report No. RR-13-22). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Neubert, J. C., Mainert, J., Kretzschmar, A., & Grei!, S. (2015). The assessment of 21st century skills in industrial and organizational psychology: Complex and collaborative problem solving. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 8(2), 238-268.

Sternberg, R.J., et. al. (2000). The Effectiveness of Triarchic Teaching and Assessment. e National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. Retrieved from



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