Situating Remediation: Accommodating Success and Failure in Medical Education Systems

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Abstract

There has been a widespread shift to competency-based medical education (CBME) in the United States and Canada. Much of the CBME discourse has focused on the successful learner, with relatively little attention paid to what happens in CBME systems when learners stumble or fail. Emerging issues, such as the well-documented problem of “failure to fail” and concerns about litigious learners, have highlighted a need for well-defined and integrated frameworks to support and guide strategic approaches to the remediation of struggling medical learners.

This Perspective sets out a conceptual review of current practices and an argument for a holistic approach to remediation in the context of their parent medical education systems. The authors propose parameters for integrating remediation into CBME and describe a model based on five zones of practice along with the rules of engagement associated with each zone. The zones are “normal” curriculum, corrective action, remediation, probation, and exclusion.

The authors argue that, by linking and integrating theory and practice in remediation with CBME, a more integrated systems-level response to differing degrees of learner difficulty and failure can be developed. The proposed model demonstrates how educational practice in different zones is based on different rules, roles, responsibilities, and thresholds for moving between zones. A model such as this can help medical educators and medical education leaders take a more integrated approach to learners’ failures as well as their successes by being more explicit about the rules of engagement that apply in different circumstances across the competency continuum.

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