Skip to content

Debriefing Techniques

Debriefing provides learners with opportunities to reflect on their performance, receive feedback, and identify areas for improvement following simulated clinical experiences. Effective debriefing techniques facilitate meaningful discussions, promote self-reflection, and enhance learning outcomes for participants.

Key Principles of Debriefing

Psychological Safety

Establishing a psychologically safe environment is essential for effective debriefing. Participants should feel comfortable expressing thoughts, emotions, and concerns without fear of judgment or criticism. Debriefing facilitators play a crucial role in creating a supportive atmosphere that encourages open communication and constructive feedback exchange.

Reflection and Sensemaking

Debriefing encourages participants to reflect on their actions, decisions, and experiences during the simulation. Sensemaking involves making sense of the simulation events, identifying patterns, and connecting actions to outcomes. Facilitators guide learners through the process of reflection and sensemaking, helping them gain insights into their performance and learning.

Active Participation

Debriefing should be an active and interactive process that engages all participants in meaningful dialogue. Facilitators encourage active participation by asking open-ended questions, inviting reflections from participants, and promoting discussion among team members. Active participation fosters engagement, promotes shared understanding, and facilitates collaborative learning.

Feedback Delivery

Effective debriefing involves delivering feedback in a constructive and supportive manner. Feedback should be specific, timely, and actionable, focusing on observed behaviors, actions, and decisions during the simulation. Facilitators use a feedback sandwich approach, sandwiching constructive criticism between positive feedback and affirmations to maintain rapport and motivation.

Debriefing Techniques and Approaches


The Plus/Delta technique involves identifying positive aspects (plus) and areas for improvement (delta) during the simulation. Participants reflect on what went well and what could be done differently next time, allowing for constructive feedback exchange and continuous improvement.


The Advocacy-Inquiry approach encourages participants to advocate for their actions, decisions, and perspectives during the simulation. Facilitators ask probing questions to uncover underlying assumptions, beliefs, and reasoning behind participant actions, promoting deeper reflection and understanding.


PEARLS stands for Probe, Educate, Assess/Analyze, Re-Teach, Learn, and Summarize. This structured debriefing framework guides facilitators through key steps in the debriefing process, ensuring comprehensive exploration of simulation events and learning points.

Best Practices in Debriefing

  • Establish Ground Rules: Set clear expectations and ground rules for debriefing sessions, including guidelines for respectful communication, confidentiality, and active participation.
  • Create a Safe Environment: Foster a safe and supportive debriefing environment where participants feel comfortable sharing experiences, asking questions, and providing feedback.
  • Use Structured Approaches: Incorporate structured debriefing frameworks and techniques to guide facilitators and ensure comprehensive exploration of simulation events and learning points.
  • Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage participants to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment during debriefing, encouraging them to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth.
  • Promote Actionable Feedback: Provide specific, actionable feedback that focuses on observable behaviors and actions, helping participants identify concrete steps for improvement in future simulations and clinical practice.