Introduction Simulation-based medical education (SBME) is an accepted learning methodology with an ever-expanding evidence base. Concerns have been expressed that research output in SBME lacks explicit links to educational theory. Using the ‘Description, Justification and Clarification’ framework we have investigated the extent to which SBME conference abstracts declare the educational theory underpinning their studies.
Methods Abstracts from four major international SBME conferences (for 2014 and 2015) were reviewed. Abstracts were classified using the framework offered by Cook et al who classified studies published in major educational journals. Clarification studies are those which specifically declare and test their underpinning educational approach.
Results We reviewed 1398 conference abstracts which we classified as Description 54.4%, Justification 36.3% and Clarification 9.3%. The two most frequently declared educational theories were Cognitive Theories and Experiential Learning.
Conclusion The low proportion of Clarification studies found in the SBME conference abstracts reflects previous findings highlighting the lack of medical education studies that establish how and why SBME works. Researchers should be encouraged to declare their underpinning educational theories when presenting their work. Conference organisers play an important role in facilitating this through allowing sufficient word count in their submission criteria.
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Contributors ACG initially devised the concept for the research project. He then acquired the abstracts from the relevant conference proceedings and classified them. He drafted and critically revised subsequent versions of the manuscript and approved the final version for submission, agreeing to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
HRC reviewed the abstracts and classified them. She carried out the statistical analysis on the raw data. She drafted and critically revised subsequent versions of the manuscript and approved the final version for submission, agreeing to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
DGME made substantial contributions to the interpretation of data. She critically revised subsequent versions of the manuscript and approved the final version for submission, agreeing to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement There is no additional unpublished data in relation to this study.
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