Art of Debriefing

Debriefing is the process of facilitated or guided reflection in the cycle of experiential learning. Analysis and discussion of scenarios and events after the simulation’s conclusion allows participants to solidify clinical knowledge and improve future performance. This is also a good opportunity for instructors to emphasize key learning points by relating them directly to the learner’s experience, producing a more memorable and effective result.

While debriefing is a powerful tool, it requires a skilled facilitator to maximize the educational benefit for the learner. Consider the following guidelines when planning a debriefing session:

Creating a Safe Learning Environment

Simulation scenarios can be intense and stressful. Ensure the participants feel supported and respected rather than being judged on their performance. Setting the tone for the debriefing session by reemphasizing the learning objectives and encourage open, nonjudgmental discussion is essential. Avoid use of polarizing language, such as “right” or “wrong” and maintain a relaxed, non-interrogatory atmosphere.

Keep Sight of the Big Picture

It’s helpful for instructors to take notes while observing scenarios. Behaviors or decisions points that illustrate the learning objectives should be kept in mind and referenced during the discussion. Ideally, the debriefer should find a balance that allows the session to proceed naturally, stimulated by learner response and participation, while still ensuring that key educational points are covered.

Engage All Learners

Learners have a variety of personalities and learning styles. A skilled debriefer encourages participation from all members of the group using directed questioning or reflecting questions back to the learners. Understanding body language and group dynamics helps the debriefer defuse challenging situations and keep the experience positive.

Let the Learners Drive the Discussion

Participants should be given the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences before any instructor feedback or constructive criticism is offered. The purpose of the debriefing session is not to serve as a lecture, but rather as an open-ended forum. A skilled debriefer recognizes when certain issues or events are particularly impactful for leaners and explores them for thoroughly.

Use Tools to Facilitate Learning

Simulations conducted in the ILC learning spaces can be recorded and annotated, allowing instructors to mark key events that can be accessed during video playback in the debriefing session. Watching recorded video can serve as a trigger for discussion, permitting participants to review their actions and behaviors.