Instructional simulations are “when students use a model of behavior to gain a better understanding of that behavior” (Blecha et al., 2012) Simulations are often used to help students understand real-world issues about society, economics, nature and the environment, and science (Blecha et al, 2012). Simulations are often implemented into medical education and included within the game-based learning literature. High-fidelity simulations paired with game dynamics and competitive game elements can increase student engagement and enhance learning (Epper, Derryberry, & Jackson, 2012).


According to Blecha et al (2012), simulations can be used to teach scientific methods and reflect on and extend knowledge. This happens through “deep learning” with engaging simulations like model building and experiments, data sampling, and outcome prediction, as well as extended discussion and reflection.

Porter (2004) supports the learning effectiveness of simulations in students’ ability to apply learning to real-life situations and understand concepts more quickly (as cited in Blecha, 2012).

Practical Applications

Blecha et al (2012) suggests three things when considering using simulations in the classroom:

  1. Instructor preparation is crucial and often time consuming
  2. Students must actively participate
  3. There must always be follow-up discussion

In a critical review of simulation-based medical education research, McGaghie, Issenberg, Petrusa and Scalese (2009) recommended the following best practices:

  1. ​Feedback
  2. Deliberate practice
  3. Curriculum integration
  4. Outcome measurement
  5. Simulation fidelity
  6. Skill acquisition and maintenance
  7. Mastery learning
  8. Transfer to practice
  9. Team training
  10. High-stakes testing
  11. Instructor training
  12. Educational and professional context (p. 52)

Related Text

  • ​Issenberg, B. S., Mcgaghie, W., C., Petrusa, E. R., Lee Gordon, D., & Scalese, R. J. (2005). Features and uses of high-fidelity medical simulations that lead to effective learning: A BEME systematic review. Journal of Medical Teacher, 27(1), 10 – 28. doi:10.1080/01421590500046924

Recommended Resources

​Related Evaluation and Assessment Resources


Posted by: Eron Drake

Original Posting Date: 10/27/14