Lukšaitė, E, Fricker, RA, McKinley, RK and Dikomitis, L (2022) Conceptualising and teaching biomedical uncertainty to medical students: an exploratory qualitative study. Medical Science Educator. ISSN 2156-8650

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Introduction Certainty/uncertainty in medicine is a topic of popular debate. This study aims to understand how biomedical uncertainty is conceptualised by academic medical educators and how it is taught in a medical school in the UK. Methods This is an exploratory qualitative study grounded in ethnographic principles. This study is based on 10 observations of teaching sessions and seven semi-structured qualitative interviews with medical educators from various biomedical disciplines in a UK medical school. The data set was analysed via a thematic analysis. Results Four main themes were identified after analysis: (1) ubiquity of biomedical uncertainty, (2) constraints to teaching biomedical uncertainty, (3) the ‘medic filter’ and (4) fluid distinction: core versus additional knowledge. While medical educators had differing understandings of how biomedical uncertainty is articulated in their disciplines, its presence was ubiquitous. This ubiquity did not translate into teaching due to time-constraints and assessment strategies. The ‘medic filter’ emerged as a strategy that educators employed to decide what to include in their teaching. They made distinctions between core and additional knowledge which were defined in varied ways across disciplines. Additional knowledge often encapsulated biomedical uncertainty. Discussion Even though the perspective that knowledge is socially constructed is not novel in medical education, it is neither universally valued nor universally applied. Moving beyond situativity theories and into broader debates in social sciences provides new opportunities to discuss the nature of scientific knowledge in medical education. We invite a move away from situated learning to situated knowledge.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biomedicine; Interviews; Medical; curriculum; Situated knowledge; Qualitative research
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R735 Medical education. Medical schools. Research
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2021 13:17
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2022 15:06

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