#KeyLIMEpodcast 139: What’s in a review… systematic, scoping, comprehensive…?

 Feedback to learners has always been important in Med Ed and is getting even more air time with the advent of CBME and mastery learning. While there has been a lot of literature on various aspects of feedback, it has not been broadly assessed. This scoping review, chosen by Linda, offers a wide perspective on the literature which may lead to further deeper reviews.

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KeyLIME Session 139 – Article under review:

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View/download the abstract here.


Bing-You R, Hayes V, Varaklis K, Trowbridge R, Kemp H, McKelvy D. Feedback for Learners in Medical Education: What Is Known? A Scoping Review. Academic Medicine. 2017 Feb 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Reviewer: Linda Snell (@LindaSMedEd)



Feedback to learners has always been important in Med Ed and is getting even more air time with the advent of CBME and mastery learning. There has been a lot of literature on various aspects of feedback but has not been broadly assessed.


“To conduct a scoping review of the literature on feedback for learners in medical education, to identify key concepts, gaps in the literature, and sources of evidence to inform practice and additional research in medical education

1) identify the extent, range, and quantity of evidence available regarding feedback

for learners in medical education;

2) map key concepts from the literature on feedback; and

3) determine existing gaps that may spur future research

Type of Paper

Scoping Review

Key Points on Methods

This is a classic scoping review following the steps:

  1. Identifying the question: “What has been broadly published in the literature about feedback to help learners in medical education?”
  2. Deciding on data sources and search strategy
  3. Managing citations
  4. Review of titles, abstracts – Initial screening using a self-developed form to identify potentially relevant articles
  5. Selection: Inclusion and exclusion
  6. Detailed article review using another self-developed form
  7. Collating and summarizing

Key Outcomes

7263 articles screened à 836 assessed à 650 reviewed

The whole review took ~6 months!

Most articles recent with ~50% in past 12 years; 98% journal articles

Most from US (50%), UK Canada, Australia, the Netherlands

Half described / evaluated a new curricular approach (mainly not randomized), 15% recommendations, 19% learner perceptions, 4% lit reviews various miscellaneous

Much of what is known about feedback for learners in medical education is not based

on strong evidence in medical education: few rigorous studies (although RCT design problematic in this area).

However a small number support behaviorist approaches

Recent articles support a non-behaviorist approach.

Authors recognize limitations:  English only, no gray lit, no stakeholder consultation.

Key Conclusions

The authors conclude that the feedback literature is broad, fairly recent, and predominantly describes new or altered curricular approaches that include feedback to learners.

High-level, evidence-based educational recommendations for feedback are lacking.

They suggest revisiting the concepts and complex nature of feedback, and future systematic reviews focused on specific research questions about feedback.

Spare Keys – other take home points for clinician educators

CEs need to know about scoping reviews, and may even want to try one

Shout out

Bob Bing-You and colleagues

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