Troubling Muddy Waters: Problematizing Reflective Practice in Global Medical Education

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Abstract

The idea of exporting the concept of reflective practice for a global medical education audience is growing. However, the uncritical export and adoption of Western concepts of reflection may be inappropriate in non-Western societies. The emphasis in Western medical education on the use of reflection for a specific end—that is, the improvement of individual clinical practice—tends to ignore the range of reflective practice, concentrating on reflection alone while overlooking critical reflection and reflexivity. This Perspective places the concept of reflective practice under a critical lens to explore a broader view for its application in medical education outside the West. The authors suggest that ideas about reflection in medicine and medical education may not be as easily transferable from Western to non-Western contexts as concepts from biomedical science are.

The authors pose the question, When “exporting” Western medical education strategies and principles, how often do Western-trained educators authentically open up to the possibility that there are alternative ways of seeing and knowing that may be valuable in educating Western physicians? One answer lies in the assertion that educators should aspire to turn exportation of educational theory into a truly bidirectional, collaborative exchange in which culturally conscious views of reflective practice contribute to humanistic, equitable patient care. This discussion engages in troubling the already-muddy waters of reflective practice by exploring the global applicability of reflective practice as it is currently applied in medical education. The globalization of medical education demands critical reflection on reflection itself.

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