Are Simulation Learning Objectives Educationally Sound? A Single-Center Cross-Sectional Study
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INTRODUCTION: Accreditation standards of simulation stress the importance of educationally sound learning objectives. We aimed to assess whether learning objectives adhered to theoretical frameworks outlined by accreditation standards, lending themselves to maximal learning outcomes. METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted at the Centre for Simulation-Based Learning at McMaster University. Raters coded 848 faculty-designed learning objectives from 722 sessions based on Bloom's Taxonomy, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) criteria, and the presence of inappropriate verbs. Learning objective categorization was compared with student evaluations. RESULTS: Using Bloom's Taxonomy, learning objectives were mostly focused on application 53%, followed by smaller percentages focused on knowledge 21.4% and comprehension 12.2%. Few learning objectives focused on higher levels of analysis 7.2%, synthesis 2.3%, and evaluation 3.7%. By SMART criteria, learning objectives were 49.6% specific, 60.8% measurable, 88.8% attainable, 85.0% realistic, and 9.1% timely. Approximately 1 in 5 objectives used inappropriate verbs. No correlations were observed between categorization by Bloom's Taxonomy or inappropriate verbs to student ratings. However, those containing attainable and timely goals were associated with lower levels of perceived achievement by students. CONCLUSIONS: There was a disconnect between simulation accreditation standards and current practices at McMaster University's simulation center. Most objectives were classified at lower stages of Bloom's Taxonomy. The majority followed SMART guidelines, with the exception of specificity and mention of time frames. A minority of learning objectives contained inappropriate verbs. Given the costs associated with simulation-based education, educators should focus simulation learning objectives on higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and include references to time frames.
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