#KeyLIMEPodcast 349: As HP educators do we have an identity? What makes a discipline?

In this commentary, Danielle Blouin pulls from Krishnan’s framework to present arguments in support of the status of HPE as an academic discipline. They hope their paper will “facilitate the efforts of organizations planning for the establishment of HPE offices or advanced HPE training programs at their institutions.”

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Blouin D. Health professions education as a discipline: Evidence based on Krishnan’s framework. Med Teach. 2021 Dec 29;1-5.


Linda Snell (@LindaSMedEd)


Who are we? Do we have an ‘academic identity’?
What a field? A discipline? An area? A domain of praxis? An academic pursuit?
Does it depend on having publications/named departments/specific training/ national organizations or conferences?
And more specifically for HPE, is it distinct from ‘higher ed’ in general?
Do we care? Should we?
Enough of this existential angst…

The literature on disciplines has looked at classifying e.g.hard/soft, applied/pure, life/non life…
The criteria for disciplines includes such things as
• An area of study with an active research agenda
• a shared body of specialized knowledge and methods unique to the discipline, boundaries that distinguish it from other disciplines;
• theories and concepts the frame and organize the specialized knowledge
• a disciplinary ‘common’ language;
• a social community bounded by normative rules
• a generally accepted intellectual tradition;
• principles and practice associated with the discipline,
• institutional presence with the creation of academic departments, degrees, journals and professional associations

Krishnan’s framework is the most concrete in its language and as such more easily operationalized.


To “provide arguments in support of the disciplinarity of HPE based on Krishnan’s framework…to facilitate the tasks of organizations required to demonstrate that HPE constitutes an academic discipline.”

Key Points on the Methods

Using the characteristics outlined by Krishnan, elicited points support the disciplinarity of HPE.

Key Outcomes

(1) An object of study and research that, although particular to the discipline, can be common to others = andragogy (adult education), shares with discipline of higher education.
Both teach the theories and philosophical bases of andragogy, use its principles in the delivery of their programs,
train students in the concepts of curriculum development, program evaluation and research various teaching, learning and assessment strategies.
(2) A domain of specialized knowledge = focuses specifically on education in the health professions across the continuum [where is patient education?]. E.g. CBME, IPE, WBA, CPD, OSCE, sim ….
(3) Theories and concepts which frame and organize the knowledge of the discipline = HPE arose due to a need for practitioners with education qualifications, able to apply ed theory to practice.
(4) Specific terminology or common language = not found in other areas of higher education. E.g. interprofessionalism, competency-based medical education, bedside teaching, best-evidence
medical education, OSCE etc. A glossary of medical education terms exists.
(5) Research methods adapted to the particularities of the discipline. = our research methodologies are varied and reflect diverse philosophical perspectives and the problem at hand. A reference work specifically to HPE research exists.
(6) An institutional presence = graduate degrees, existence of academic departments and professional associations.

Key Conclusions

The authors conclude there are “differences in the cognitive processes The authors conclude…’Using Krishnan’s framework, [we] argue in support of HPE recognition as an academic discipline.’

Spare Keys – other take home points for clinician educators

Why is this paper useful? Support for the development of a degree program, a department (institute, centre, academy…), for our own academic credibility…to explain what we do.

You can find a framework for everything.

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