Learning with Scenarios: Exploring Tools, Activities and Affordances

April 9 1:30 PM

Terry Poulton, St. George's University of London
Rachel Ellaway, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Scenario-based learning (SBL) has been linked to problem-based learning (PBL) and case-based learning (CBL) and it does share many features with them; active learning, contextual focus, task-orientation and so on. However, there are critical differences; although SBL can make use of problems and cases, it is the representation of a rich practice context and the learner’s interactions with it that distinguishes SBL from PBL and CBL.

These enhancements from simple text-based virtual patients, through sophisticated serious games and software simulations to mannequins and robot-based simulators enable students to be exposed to real-life situations and to examine, diagnose and treat patients in a safe and relatively risk-free environment. Students can take on the role of a medical practitioner in these activities with an appropriate scope of possible actions while allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them, thereby reducing the potential risk of medical error when in practice.

However, there has been very little work to show which type of scenario tool best suits particular learners or learning contexts either educationally or economically. In the absence of clear empirical evidence it often assumed that highly realistic virtual simulations are necessary to support clinical skills training, and simpler (and cheaper), interactive virtual patients are best suited for exploring clinical management and decision-making. The evidence, such as it is, would seem to contradict this, but few coordinated research efforts have been conducted to clarify this domain and provide definitive evidence to guide educational practice.

This workshop will explore different scenario-based learning tools and the kinds of activities that they support that are currently available to educational practitioners, consider which types are best for which purpose, and their relative effectiveness and efficiency. It will then invite participants to explore in groups the relative merits of different SBL activity designs at different stages in medical education to draw together a consensus statement from the workshop on this critical topic.