Structured reflective observation in continuing training


Johan Jenvald, Mona Eriksson


The nuclear industry is facing a number of challenges. With an aging workforce and the introduction of new technical systems in the control rooms, there are is an immediate demand for methods and tools that can increase the knowledge transfer between operators and shifts. During March and April 2009, we conducted 14 simulation exercises, involving a total of 72 nuclear control room operators, as part of the annual continuing training at Ringhals nuclear power plant. During each exercise, one shift acted as operators in a full-scale simulator while a second shift observed their work using the method structured reflective observation. After each exercise we used NASA-TLX and the Borg scale to let the trainees estimate their mental workload both as individuals and as a team. Following the exercise, we assembled the trainees in one group and the observers in a second group. Each group was coached by a facilitator and asked to define key events from the scenario that they just had experienced. The groups identified successful actions and areas of improvements. In the next phase, the trainees and the observers exchanged ideas during a structured discussion. At the end of the exercise session the participants filled out a questionnaire, in which they described the lessons learned from both acting in the control room as operators and from acting as an observer.

The CITE Observer computer system was used by the observers for writing the observation reports, and by the instructors to compile, sort and print reports to facilitate the group discussions. The reports were also handed out as documentation to the individual trainee after each exercise.

The conclusions from the exercises are that we have created an increased interest and involvement in the training situation and that the used method stimulates the trainees to formulate the training results based on group reflection and peer-to-peer feedback. We have also stimulated discussions originating from multiple perspectives, such as peer to peer, team to team, more experienced to less experienced and also junior to senior. We have found that operators who are new in their roles expect and want extensive and frequent feedback. We also found that the Borg scale is a good measure of workload (strong correlation with mental demand and effort in NASA-TLX). Finally, we have observed that the Shift Manager has an important role in the team development. An enthusiastic Shift Manager motivates the shift members to take on challenges in various situations.