Introduction: Peer-Assisted learning (PAL) is well described in medical education but there has been little research on its application in simulation-based education (SBE). This exploratory study aimed to determine the perceptions of senior medical students at two universities to teaching and learning in SBE using PAL (PAL-SBE).
Methods: Ninety-seven medical students at two universities working in small groups with facilitator oversight wrote, ran and debriefed a simulation scenario for their peers. This was a mixed-methods study. Participants completed a written free-Text and Likert survey instrument, and participated in a facilitated focus group immediately after the scenario. Thematic analysis was performed on the free-Text and focus group transcripts.
Results: Student-led scenarios ran without major technical issues. Instructor presence was required throughout scenario delivery and debrief, making the exercise resource intensive. Participant responses were more positive regarding learning as peer teachers in simulation than they were regarding participation as a peer learner. Five themes were identified: learning in the simulated environment; teaching in the simulated environment; teaching peers and taking on an educator role; learning from peers; and time and effort expended. Perceived benefits included learning in depth through scenario writing, improved knowledge retention, understanding the patient's perspective and learning to give feedback through debriefing.
Conclusion: PAL in SBE is feasible and was perceived positively by students. Perceived benefits appear to be greater for the peer teachers than for peer learners.