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MANUSCRIPT: Teaching, Learning, Complexity and Health Professions Education

The purpose of this paper is to disturb the way we think about teaching and learning and to offer a view of health professions education from the perspective of complexity thinking. To discuss complexity and the profound shift it makes with current thinking it is helpful to recall that prior to the 16th century it was believed, in the Western world, that all things on earth and in the heavens were guided by a divine hand. Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, Descartes, and Bacon, among others, challenged and changed the status quo. Exploration and the gathering of evidence through experimentation, together with the rise individualism helped give birth to the scientific and industrial revolutions. Descartes wrote that everything should be broken down into its smallest component parts in order to understand the whole. This has had a profound and lasting effect palpable today in health professions education where mechanistic explanations still prevail and reductionist approaches to curriculum rooted in Cartesian and Newtonian linear causality are common. This is the dominant paradigm of western science and society. It is how we organize our schools. It is how we teach.

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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