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Impact of vicarious learning through peer observation during simulation on student behavioural measures

Kae Livsey, Erin Lavender-Stott


Introduction: Having student peers observe and provide feedback has been found to aid learning in nursing and other health professions training settings (Cushing, Abbott, Lothian, Hall, & Westwood, 2011; Eldridge, Bear, Wayne, & Perea, 2013). Prior studies have documented student perceptions about the value of these experiences, but few studies examine the impact of these modalities on student behavioural outcomes. In this study, we describe the use of peer observation to evaluate student performance during a home visit simulation scenario using a standardised patient to explore whether serving as a peer observer supports vicarious learning to promote skill development in areas of assessment, communication, critical thinking and technical skills.

Methods: Groups of four students were subdivided into dyads, with one pair of students serving as peer evaluators and one pair being engaged in a home visit simulation scenario using a standardised patient. Students then reversed roles. Peer observers and faculty members rated student behaviours using the Creighton Simulation Evaluation Instrument (CSEI), which examines technical, critical thinking, assessment and communication skills.

Results: Groups of students who witnessed the scenario as peer evaluator prior to engaging in the simulation experience scored significantly higher mean scores on communication and assessment measures than those participating in the scenario first. In addition, peers tended to score their colleagues lower than faculty evaluators.

Conclusions: Findings from this study indicate that integrating peer observation into simulation experiences can enhance student learning, particularly in the areas of assessment and communication. 


simulation; peer review; experiential learning; communication skills; vicarious learning; nursing education

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