Share this article on:

Reflection in/and Writing: Pedagogy and Practice in Medical Education

Wear, Delese PhD; Zarconi, Joseph MD; Garden, Rebecca PhD; Jones, Therese PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824d22e9
Medical Humanities

During the past decade, “reflection” and “reflective writing” have become familiar terms and practices in medical education. The authors of this article argue that the use of the terms requires more thoughtfulness and precision, particularly because medical educators ask students to do so much reflection and reflective writing. First, the authors discuss John Dewey’s thoughts on the elements of reflection. Then the authors turn the discussion to composition studies in an effort to form a more robust conception of reflective writing. In particular, they examine what the discipline of composition studies refers to as the writing process. Next, they offer two approaches to teaching composition: the expressivist orientation and the critical/cultural studies orientation. The authors examine the vigorous debate over how to respond to reflective writing, and, finally, they offer a set of recommendations for incorporating reflection and reflective writing into the medical curriculum.

Dr. Wear is professor of family and community medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, Ohio.

Dr. Zarconi is system vice president for medical education and founding director, Institute for Professionalism Inquiry at Summa Health System, Akron, Ohio, and professor of medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, Ohio.

Dr. Garden is associate professor of bioethics and humanities, State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse, Syracuse, New York.

Dr. Jones is director, Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program, Center for Bioethics and Humanities, and associate professor of medicine, University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Wear, Northeast Ohio Medical University, 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown, OH 44272; telephone: (330) 325–6125; fax: (330) 325–5911; e-mail:

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges