Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Conceptualising and Teaching Biomedical Uncertainty to Medical Students: an Exploratory Qualitative Study

Lukšaitė, E., Fricker, R.A., McKinley, R.K., Dikomitis, Lisa (2022) Conceptualising and Teaching Biomedical Uncertainty to Medical Students: an Exploratory Qualitative Study. Medical Science Educator, 32 (2). pp. 371-378. ISSN 2156-8650. (doi:10.1007/s40670-021-01481-x) (KAR id:98451)


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
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s40670-021-01481-x
Uncontrolled keywords: Biomedicine, Interviews, Medical curriculum, Qualitative research, Situated knowledge
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Kent and Medway Medical School
Depositing User: Manfred Gschwandtner
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2022 17:33 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 14:48 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.