The practices and concepts of medical education are often treated as global constants even though they can take many forms depending on the contexts in which they are realised. This represents challenges in presenting and appraising medical education research, as well as in translating practices and concepts between different contexts. This paper explores the problem and seeks to respond to its challenges.METHODS
This paper explores the application of architectural theorist Christopher Alexander's work on patterns and pattern languages to medical education. The authors review the underlying concepts of patterns and pattern language, they consider the development of pattern languages in medical education, they suggest possible applications of pattern languages for medical education and they discuss the implications of such use. Examples are drawn from across the field of medical education.RESULTS
The authors argue that the deliberate and systematic use of patterns and pattern languages in describing medical educational activities, systems and contexts can help us to make sense of the world, and the pattern languages of medical education have the potential to advance understanding and scholarship in medical education, to drive innovation and to enable critical engagement with many of the underlying issues in this field.