Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Education and BioMed Central.

Open Access Debate

Optimisation of simulated team training through the application of learning theories: a debate for a conceptual framework

Martin Stocker1*, Margarita Burmester2 and Meredith Allen3

Author Affiliations

1 Neonatal and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Children’s Hospital Lucerne, Spitalstrasse, Lucerne 16 CH-6000, Switzerland

2 Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK

3 The Royal Children's Hospital, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:69  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-69

Published: 3 April 2014



As a conceptual review, this paper will debate relevant learning theories to inform the development, design and delivery of an effective educational programme for simulated team training relevant to health professionals.


Kolb’s experiential learning theory is used as the main conceptual framework to define the sequence of activities. Dewey’s theory of reflective thought and action, Jarvis modification of Kolb’s learning cycle and Schön’s reflection-on-action serve as a model to design scenarios for optimal concrete experience and debriefing for challenging participants’ beliefs and habits. Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy and newer socio-cultural learning models outline that for efficient team training, it is mandatory to introduce the social-cultural context of a team.


The ideal simulated team training programme needs a scenario for concrete experience, followed by a debriefing with a critical reflexive observation and abstract conceptualisation phase, and ending with a second scenario for active experimentation. Let them re-experiment to optimise the effect of a simulated training session. Challenge them to the edge: The scenario needs to challenge participants to generate failures and feelings of inadequacy to drive and motivate team members to critical reflect and learn. Not experience itself but the inadequacy and contradictions of habitual experience serve as basis for reflection. Facilitate critical reflection: Facilitators and group members must guide and motivate individual participants through the debriefing session, inciting and empowering learners to challenge their own beliefs and habits. To do this, learners need to feel psychological safe. Let the group talk and critical explore. Motivate with reality and context: Training with multidisciplinary team members, with different levels of expertise, acting in their usual environment (in-situ simulation) on physiological variables is mandatory to introduce cultural context and social conditions to the learning experience. Embedding in situ team training sessions into a teaching programme to enable repeated training and to assess regularly team performance is mandatory for a cultural change of sustained improvement of team performance and patient safety.

Teamwork; Team training; In-situ simulation; Experiential learning theory; Socio-cultural learning theories; Conceptual framework