Simulation-based medical education is no better than problem-based discussions and induces misjudgment in self-assessment

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2009 May;14(2):159-71. doi: 10.1007/s10459-008-9098-2. Epub 2008 Jan 24.


Simulation-based teaching (SBT) is increasingly used in medical education. As an alternative to other teaching methods there is a lack of evidence concerning its efficacy. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potency of SBT in anesthesia in comparison to problem-based discussion (PBD) with students in a randomized controlled setting. Thirty-three fourth-year medical students attending a curricular anesthesiology course were randomly allocated to either a session of SBT or a session of PBD on an emergency induction method. Ten days later all students underwent examination in a simulator. The performance of each student was evaluated by weighted tasks, established according to a modified Delphi process. Confidence and a multiple-choice questionnaire were additionally performed pre- and post-intervention. A total of 32 students completed the study. Participants in the SBT group presented with significantly higher self-assessment scores after the intervention than students in the PBD group. However, students in the SBT group achieved only slightly and statistically insignificantly higher scores in the theoretical and simulator examination (p > 0.05) with only a moderate effect size of d = 0.52. The current study demonstrates that both PBD and SBT lead to comparable short-term outcomes in theoretical knowledge and clinical skills. However, undesirably, SBT students overrated their anticipated clinical abilities and knowledge improvement.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthesiology / education*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / standards*
  • Delphi Technique
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires