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New Rresearch Units

Facilitating diagnostic competences in simulation-based learning environments in higher education


New Research Units

The new DFG Research Units at LMU, led by Professors Frank Fischer, focuses on use of simulations in the teaching of diagnostic competences.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft has agreed to finance a new Research, directed by Frank Fischer, Professor of Education and Educational Psychology at LMU and TU. It will be dedicated to “Facilitating diagnostic competences in simulation-based learning environments in higher education”.

Facilitating diagnostic competences in simulation-based learning environments

The Research Group led by Frank Fischer will explore how, in the context of university curricula, simulations can best be designed to enable students to acquire vital professional skills. The project will focus on developing simulations for the teaching of diagnostic competences to medical students and trainee teachers. Although there are obvious differences between a doctor who is trying to discover the underlying cause of a patient’s illness and a teacher who wants to work out why one of her pupils is underperforming in class, there are also certain parallels: Both physician and educator seek to collect and collate all relevant information so as to reduce the level of uncertainty and arrive at the decision best supported by the evidence. “Traditional university study programs offer students comparatively few opportunities for independent decision-making in practical situations. Hence they do not, as yet, prepare students optimally for the challenges they will face when confronted with problems of diagnosis in real life,” says Fischer.

Simulations enable the participants to make their own decisions, but learning success in this context depends on whether or not they receive the appropriate support in evaluating the information available. “The problem is that there have been relatively few experimental studies of the causal relationships between the formal design of simulations (such as the inclusion of dedicated periods for reflection in order to relieve the pressure on participants), the process of diagnosis itself, and the acquisition of general diagnostic competences. In addition, it is not clear to what extent correlations and effects depend on individual variation in basic cognitive skills – such as working memory – on the one hand, and contextual elements of the simulation on the other.” Whether or not the diagnosis is arrived at by a single individual, or in consultation with others, would be one example of the latter variable. To tease out the links between these disparate factors, the Research Group plans to carry out several studies with over 3000 participants.

Both the Research Group’s personnel and its work program are decidedly interdisciplinary in character. Specialists in the fields of Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Psychology and Medicine will work together. This close interaction will also facilitate assessment of the transferability of findings between the domains of medicine and education.