Introduction: Goal setting is used in education to promote learning and performance. Debriefing after clinical scenario-based simulation is a well-established practice that provides learners a defined structure to review and improve performance. Our objective was to integrate formal learning goal generation, using the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound), into standard debriefing processes (i.e., “SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing”) and subsequently measure the impact on the development of learning goals and execution of educational actions.
Methods: This was a prospective multicenter randomized controlled study of 80 emergency medicine residents at three academic hospitals comparing the effectiveness of SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing to a standard debriefing. Residents were block randomized on a rolling basis following a simulation case. SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing included five minutes of formal instruction on the development of SMART learning goals during the summary/application phase of the debrief. Outcome measures included the number of recalled learning goals, self-reported executed educational actions, and quality of each learning goal and educational action after a two-week follow-up period.
Results: The mean number of reported learning goals was similar in the standard debriefing group (mean 2.05 goals, SD 1.13, n=37 residents), and in the SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing group (mean 1.93, SD 0.96, n=43), with no difference in learning goal quality. Residents receiving SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing completed more educational actions on average (Control group actions completed 0.97 (SD 0.87), SMART debrief group 1.44 (SD 1.03) p=0.03).
Conclusion: The number and quality of learning goals reported by residents was not improved as a result of SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing. Residents did, however, execute more educational actions, which is consistent with the overarching intent of any educational intervention.