Issue: In medical education, teaching is currently viewed as an intervention that causes learning. The task of medical education research is seen as establishing which educational interventions produce the desired learning outcomes. This ‘medical model’ of education does not do justice to the dynamics of education as an open, semiotic, recursive system rather than a closed, causal system. Evidence: Empirical ‘evidence’ of ‘what works’–that is, what is supposed to affect ‘learning’–has become the norm for medical educational improvements, where generalized summary outcomes of research are often presented as must-follow guidelines for myriad future educational situations. Such investigations of educational processes tend to lack an explicit engagement with the purposes of medical education, which we suggest to understand in terms of qualification (the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and understanding), socialization (becoming a member of the professional group) and subjectification (becoming a thoughtful, independent, responsible professional). In addition, investigations of educational processes tend to rely on causal assumptions that are inadequate for capturing the dynamics of educational communication and interaction. Although we see an increasing acknowledgement of the context-dependency of teaching practices toward educational aims, the currently prevailing view in medical education and educational research limits understanding of what is actually going on when educators teach and students participate in medical education–a situation which seriously hinders advancements in the field. Implications: In this paper, we hope to inform discussion about the practice of medical education by proposing to view medical education in terms of three domains of purpose (professional qualification, professional socialization, and professional subjectification) and with full acknowledgement of the dynamics of educational interaction and communication. Such a view implies that curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment, and evaluation should be reoriented to include and integrate all three purposes in educational practice. It also means that medical education research findings cannot be applied in just any teaching context without carefully considering the value of the suggested courses of actions toward the particular educational aims and teaching setting. In addition, medical educational research would need to investigate all three purposes and recognize the openness, semiotic nature, and recursivity of education in offering implications for teaching practice.

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Teaching and Learning in Medicine: an international journal
Department of General Practice

Biesta, G.J.J. (Gert J. J.), & van Braak, M. (Marije). (2020). Beyond the Medical Model: Thinking Differently about Medical Education and Medical Education Research. Teaching and Learning in Medicine: an international journal. doi:10.1080/10401334.2020.1798240