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01-02-2017 | Review Article | Uitgave 1/2017 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 1/2017

Using critical consciousness to inform health professions education

A literature review

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 1/2017
Mark Halman, Lindsay Baker, Stella Ng
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Editor’s Note: Commentary by: J. Frambach. DOI:10.​1007/​s40037-016-0325-x



To explore how, in health professions education (HPE), the concept of critical consciousness has been defined and discussed, and to consider and suggest how critical pedagogy could be applied in practice. This exploration responds to increasing calls in the literature for HPE to foster compassionate care and social consciousness through the social sciences and humanities.


The authors searched Medline/PubMed, ERIC and Web of Science for articles focusing on critical consciousness and/or critical pedagogy involving health professions. A thematic analysis aimed to identify key themes of critical consciousness in HPE literature.


The authors included 30 papers in their review. Key themes related to defining and discussing core attributes of critical consciousness in HPE were: 1) appreciating context in education and practice; 2) illuminating power structures; 3) moving beyond ‘procedural’; 4) enacting reflection; and 5) promoting equity and social justice.


Critical consciousness may inform an appropriate critical pedagogy for fostering compassionate, humanistic, socially conscious health professionals who act as agents of change. While the authors share critical teaching practices for educators, considerable care must be taken in efforts to use critical pedagogy within the current structures of HPE programmes. The authors suggest attending to the philosophical and theoretical origins of critical consciousness and those of the dominant models of contemporary HPE (e. g. competency-based approaches) in order to ensure the tenets of critical pedagogy can be enacted authentically.
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