Gaps and chasms: Defining and theorizing absences in health professions education research

Date:                    Sunday 25th August

Half Day:              1330-1630

Level:                    Introductory


  1. Zac Feilchenfeld, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada; Division of General Internal Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada.
  2. Cynthia R Whitehead, The Wilson Centre; Associate Professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto; VP-Education, Women’s College Hospital; Toronto, Canada 
  3. Elise Paradis, The Wilson Centre; Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Healthcare Practice, Faculty of Pharmacy; University of Toronto, Canada
  4. Ayelet Kuper, The Wilson Centre; Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto; Division of General Internal Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; Toronto, Canada

Summary of theme and why it is important:  Health professions education (HPE) researchers continually strive for ever better evidence to inform education practices. They make use of a variety of methodologies to examine phenomena like education tools, curricula, and assessment techniques in order to understand if, how or why they work. While researchers make choices about what topics to study, this does not occur in a vacuum: funding agencies play a role, as do researchers’ job accountabilities and opportunities in their research environments. Journal editors then exert influence over what enters the published literature. Perhaps as a result of such choices, or perhaps just due to the immense breadth of topics and comparatively small volume of research produced in HPE, there remain many areas that have yet to be explored. Even in areas of HPE with important implications for educational practices and/or to which significant attention has already been paid, absences still exist.
In this workshop, we will explore the concept of absence in HPE research. While an absence or gap in the literature is often appropriately used as justification for conducting a research project, we wish to draw attention to unexpected, unexamined, and disbelieved absences, some much larger than mere gaps. These may, for example, be absences of evidence (for example, an educational technology for which there is growing enthusiasm and adoption despite a lack of evidence that it works); absences of research (for example, a growing body of literature in an area that includes almost no empirical research and is largely based on commentaries and editorials); and absences of content (for example, the absence of important topics, concepts, or ideas in educational programmes, curriculum documents, accreditation standards, or official policies). There are also other types of absence; we will encourage workshop participants to delineate these in creative ways and to consider the implications of all of these absences for their own work.
The identification, understanding and exploration of absences can move participants’ HPE research forward in ways that studying a presence may not. By the end of this workshop, participants will have the skills to begin to scrutinize absences, bringing an exciting new perspective to their work in HPE research.
Who should participate in the Pre-Conference Workshop?  This workshop is designed to encourage AMEE participants who are interested in health professions education research to explore the concept of absence in the context of education research. Education researchers who have encountered absences in their field of interest may wish to participate as an introduction to different perspectives of what these absences can mean or represent. Educators and teachers whose work relies upon the conclusions from education research findings and learners whose curricula may be constructed on the basis of education research will also find the ideas highlighted in this workshop relevant.

What will they gain from participating?  By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Define the concept of absence in the context of health professions education research;
  2. Identify and explore the implications of absences in health professions education research in areas of interest to participants;
  3. Discuss methods to reveal and examine absences and disseminate the findings and implications of absence research; and
  4. Consider how to engage in productive academic discussion when highlighting or examining critical absences.

Cost: Euros 90 (includes coffee)

PLEASE NOTE: Pre-conference Workshop participants must also register for AMEE 2019 and pay the conference fee.


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