Learning Conversations: An Analysis of the Theoretical Roots and Their Manifestations of Feedback and Debriefing in Medical Education

Walter Tavares*, Walter Eppich, Adam Cheng, Stephen Miller, Pim W. Teunissen, Christopher J. Watling, Joan Sargeant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Feedback and debriefing are experience-informed dialogues upon which experiential models of learning often depend. Efforts to understand each have largely been independent of each other, thus splitting them into potentially problematic and less productive factions. Given their shared purpose of improving future performance, the authors asked whether efforts to understand these dialogues are, for theoretical and pragmatic reasons, best advanced by keeping these concepts unique or whether some unifying conceptual framework could better support educational contributions and advancements in medical education. The authors identified seminal works and foundational concepts to formulate a purposeful review and analysis exploring these dialogues' theoretical roots and their manifestations. They considered conceptual and theoretical details within and across feedback and debriefing literatures and traced developmental paths to discover underlying and foundational conceptual approaches and theoretical similarities and differences.

Findings suggest that each of these strategies was derived from distinct theoretical roots, leading to variations in how they have been studied, advanced, and enacted; both now draw on multiple (often similar) educational theories, also positioning themselves as ways of operationalizing similar educational frameworks. Considerable commonality now exists; those studying and advancing feedback and debriefing are leveraging similar cognitive and social theories to refine and structure their approaches. As such, there may be room to merge these educational strategies as learning conversations because of their conceptual and theoretical consistency. Future scholarly work should further delineate the theoretical, educational, and practical relevance of integrating feedback and debriefing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1025
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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