Embracing standardisation and contextualisation in medical education

Joanna Bates*, Brett Schrewe, Rachel H. Ellaway, Pim W. Teunissen, Christopher Watling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Context The tensions that emerge between the universal and the local in a global world require continuous negotiation. However, in medical education, standardization and contextual diversity tend to operate as separate philosophies, with little attention to the interplay between them. Methods The authors synthesise the literature related to the intersections and resulting tensions between standardization and contextual diversity in medical education. In doing so, the authors analyze the interplay between these competing concepts in two domains of medical education (admissions and competency-based medical education), and provide concrete examples drawn from the literature. Results Standardization offers many rewards: its common articulations and assumptions promote patient safety, foster continuous quality improvement, and enable the spread of best practices. Standardization may also contribute to greater fairness, equity, reliability and validity in high stakes processes, and can provide stakeholders, including the public, with tangible reassurance and a sense of the stable and timeless. At the same time, contextual variation in medical education can afford myriad learning opportunities, and it can improve alignment between training and local workforce needs. The inevitable diversity of contexts for learning and practice renders any absolute standardization of programs, experiences, or outcomes an impossibility. Conclusions The authors propose a number of ways to examine the interplay of contextual diversity and standardization and suggest three ways to move beyond an either/or stance. In reconciling the laudable goals of standardization and the realities of the innumerable contexts in which we train and deliver care, we are better positioned to design and deliver a medical education system that is globally responsible and locally engaged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-24
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Education
Volume53
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Keywords

  • LONGITUDINAL INTEGRATED CLERKSHIPS
  • SITUATIONAL JUDGMENT TESTS
  • SCHOOL ADMISSIONS
  • COMPLEXITY SCIENCE
  • STUDENTS LEARN
  • CONTEXT
  • DIVERSITY
  • SYSTEMS
  • RELIABILITY
  • PERFORMANCE

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