Case-Informed Learning in Medical Education: A Call for Ontological Fidelity

Anna MacLeod
Olga Kits
Paula Cameron
Sarah Burm
Simon Field
Stephen Miller
Victoria Luong
Wendy A. Stewart
Soort article
Eye Opener
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Case-informed learning is an umbrella term we use to classify pedagogical approaches that use text-based cases for learning. Examples include Problem-Based, Case-Based, and Team-Based approaches, amongst others. We contend that the cases at the heart of case-informed learning are philosophical artefacts that reveal traditional positivist orientations of medical education and medicine, more broadly, through their centering scientific knowledge and objective fact. This positivist orientation, however, leads to an absence of the human experience of medicine in most cases.

One of the rationales for using cases is that they allow for learning in context, representing aspects of real-life medical practice in controlled environments. Cases are, therefore, a form of simulation. Yet issues of fidelity, widely discussed in the broader simulation literature, have yet to enter discussions of case-informed learning. We propose the concept of ontological fidelity as a way to approach ontological questions (i.e., questions regarding what we assume to be real), so that they might centre narrative and experiential elements of medicine.

Ontological fidelity can help medical educators grapple with what information should be included in a case by encouraging an exploration of the philosophical questions: What is real? Which (and whose) reality do we want to simulate through cases? What are the essential elements of a case that make it feel real? What is the clinical story we want to reproduce in case format? In this Eye-Opener, we explore what it would mean to create cases from a position of ontological fidelity and provide suggestions for how to do this in everyday medical education.


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