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Learning Theory Foundations of Simulation-Based Mastery Learning

McGaghie, William C. PhD; Harris, Ilene B. PhD

doi: 10.1097/SIH.0000000000000279
IMSH Research Summit Article

Summary Statement Simulation-based mastery learning (SBML), like all education interventions, has learning theory foundations. Recognition and comprehension of SBML learning theory foundations are essential for thoughtful education program development, research, and scholarship. We begin with a description of SBML followed by a section on the importance of learning theory foundations to shape and direct SBML education and research. We then discuss three principal learning theory conceptual frameworks that are associated with SBML–behavioral, constructivist, social cognitive–and their contributions to SBML thought and practice. We then discuss how the three learning theory frameworks converge in the course of planning, conducting, and evaluating SBML education programs in the health professions. Convergence of these learning theory frameworks is illustrated by a description of an SBML education and research program in advanced cardiac life support. We conclude with a brief coda.

From the Department of Medical Education and Northwestern Simulation (W.C.M.), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; and Department of Medical Education (I.B.H.), University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, IL.

Reprints: William C. McGaghie, PhD, Department of Medical Education and Northwestern Simulation, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, McGaw Pavilion Suite 1-200, 240 East Huron St, Chicago, IL 60611 (e-mail:

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2018 Society for Simulation in Healthcare