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Introduction: Experiential learning through active participation is thought to be a key benefit of simulation-based education. Recent research has challenged this assumption, suggesting that active participants learn just as well as observers. Studies report that active participants experience stress and anxiety during simulation, which may hamper learning by active participants. We undertook the current study to examine whether active participation results in different emotional arousal than observing during simulation. We hypothesized that participants in active roles experience higher levels of negative emotions than those observing and looked for evidence that this may impact learning.

Methods: Pediatric residents participate in simulations, rotating through active and observer roles, as part of their standard curriculum. We assessed both positive and negative emotional arousal with the Positive and Negative Affect Scale immediately after each simulation and assessed learning through multiple-choice questions. We used repeated measures analysis of variance to examine potential interactions between Positive and Negative Affect Scale scores and role in simulation. To explore differences in learning, we examined whether knowledge retention differed between the groups.

Results: Residents had higher levels of both positive and negative emotional arousal in active roles compared with observing roles. We could not detect a difference in learning between the roles.

Conclusions: The increase in both positive and negative emotions among active participants compared with observers may have important implications for simulation design and participant learning. Future studies should be powered to detect differences in learning and examine the impact of contributing factors such as learner level and context.

(C) 2019 Society for Simulation in Healthcare