The common goal in medical education is to support the health care workforce, both present and future, in becoming and remaining competent professionals. Both during and after medical training, learning takes place in the clinical workplace. Yet, how feedback is defined in medical education and how it is practiced in clinical training situations, combined with a research focus on “what works,” limits its potential for learning. This article explores the theoretical background of learning in interaction and current trends in medical education to broaden the scope of feedback and promote its relevance to workplace learning.
A new, wider perspective is outlined in which feedback could be redefined as “performance-relevant information” (PRI). PRI can incorporate all information that is deemed relevant to the learner, drawn from interaction in workplace learning and one’s interpretation of performance in the clinical workplace. This information can, for example, come from the evaluation of patient outcomes after treatment; observations of role models’ performance; evaluations and assessments; exploring feelings of failure or success; and responses of colleagues and peers.
PRI draws attention to learning opportunities that better fit the highly social learning of clinical workplaces and current trends in medical education. It supports the interpretation of individual or team performance in terms of relevance to learning. This allows for a comprehensive way of viewing and stimulating workplace learning and the performance of professionals, providing an opportunity to create lifelong learning strategies and potentially improving the care of patients.