By Kelli Ainsworth, Editorial Coordinator
Traditional well control training has often employed a pedagogical approach in which an expert lectures students on his or her knowledge, creating a passive, rather than active, learning environment. “It places students in a submissive role that requires that students obey teachers, and it’s based on the assumption that students only need to know what the teacher tells them,” Michael Arnold, General Manager of Intertek Industry Services, said at the 2015 IADC Well Control Conference of the Americas in Galveston, Texas, on 25 August. Data shows that students retain only 5% of what they hear in a lecture and 10% of what they read, he said. “But if we can use group demonstrations, group discussions, practice by doing, that’s going to increase the retention of our students by at least a factor of five.”
Mr Arnold suggested that a modern well control curriculum should incorporate adult–learning theory and human factors training that address a variety of learning styles. Course design should equip students not only with the knowledge they need but also with the ability to assess situations, decide on the right course of action and then take action. A flipped classroom approach, in which the instructor assists the students in learning at their own pace, could satisfy these requirements, he said. “It’s going to have the students practicing their skills to recognize well control issues, make decisions and take action.”
Guide on the side
Another advantage of the flipped classroom approach is that it appeals to a range of learning styles and types of learners, Mr Arnold said. Further, it provides greater opportunity for collaborative learning. “We can do this by having our students working together with other students, having shared learning experiences… If we do that, we will decrease the use of instructor-based learning and increase the use of learner-based approaches,” he said.
In a traditional classroom, or “sage on a stage” setting, the instructor teaches and then sends students off with homework. A flipped classroom allows students to participate in activities and demonstrations together during class and then study the course material on their own after class. “In a flipped classroom, we have the students working first, and then they can study material, read whatever they need to read or work on problems,” Mr Arnold said. “Time in the classroom is used for the application of concepts, and afterwards they can study.”
A flipped classroom turns the instructor from the sage on the stage to a “guide on the side,” Mr Arnold said. Rather than lecture, the instructor in a flipped classroom moves throughout the room as students work, answering questions, clearing up misconceptions and providing additional explanation when needed. However, there may be times when the instructor isn’t able to provide a student with the needed assistance. In those cases, the collaborative nature of the flipped classroom is especially beneficial, Mr Arnold said. In his own experience as a well control instructor, there have been occasions in which his attempts to explain a concept to a student were not successful, “but his colleague sitting next to him could look at it in a different way and explain it better so that the student understood.”
Human performance-based course design
Traditional well control course design often takes a linear approach, presenting content from geology to mud to abnormal pressure detection. However, this isn’t what is going to happen in an actual well control event. Courses should be designed to mirror human performance, Mr Arnold suggested, supplying students not only with content knowledge but also teaching them how to properly assess a situation, make decisions and take action. “This is what really happens on the rig,” he said. “They have a certain fundamental knowledge. Something happens, they’re going to assess that situation, and they’re going to act,” he said.
With that in mind, Mr Arnold said, course design should focus on four areas: know, assess, decide and act. The “know” content topics could include causes of kicks, influx characteristics and well control equipment. The “assess” portion of the curriculum would teach students how to apply their knowledge of well control to recognize when a kick or well control event is occurring. In the “decide” section, students would explore how mental events, such as their perception and comprehension of a well control event and the anticipation of what could happen, influences their decision making. Finally, in the “act” portion, students would practice shut-in procedures and perform kill sheet exercises. The curriculum would use a combination of presentations, interactive cases to practice well control concepts, practical assessments, self-study and practice assessments on simulators.
A well control course that allows learning to occur in a more active way, with a course design based on human performance, allows students to build on the knowledge they already possess. “Adults resist learning if they feel the instructor is imposing information, ideas and actions on them.” Students in well control courses often bring their own experience and knowledge with them to the classroom, he explained. “They’re goal- and relevancy-oriented. They’re practical, and they want to be respected.”