ABSTRACT: Looking back to move forward: using history, discourse and text in medical education research
As medical education research continues to diversify methodologically and theoretically, medical education researchers have been increasingly willing to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions about the form, content and function of medical education. In this AMEE guide we describe historical, discourse and text analysis approaches that can help researchers and educators question the inevitability of things that are currently seen as ‘natural’. Why is such questioning important? By articulating our assumptions and interrogating the ‘naturalness’ of the status quo, one can then begin to ask why things are the way they are. Researchers can, for example, ask whether the models of medical education organization and delivery that currently seem ‘natural’ to them have been developed in order to provide the most benefit to students or patients–or whether they have, rather, been developed in ways that provide power to faculty members, medical schools or the medical profession as a whole. An understanding of the interplay of practices and power is a valuable tool for opening up the field to new possibilities for better medical education. The recognition that our current models, rather than being ‘natural’, were created in particular historical contexts for any number of contingent reasons leads inexorably to the possibility of change. For if our current ways of doing things are not, in fact, inevitable, not only can they be questioned, they can be made better; they can changed in ways that are attentive to whom they benefit, are congruent with our current beliefs about best practice and may lead to the production of better doctors.