Clinical Reasoning Curricula in Preclinical Undergraduate Medical Education: A Scoping Review

Matthew K Hawks, Joseph M Maciuba, Jerusalem Merkebu, Steven J Durning, Renee Malory, Michael J Arnold, Dario Torre, Michael Soh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: Clinical reasoning is the process of observing, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting patient information to arrive at a diagnosis and management plan. Although clinical reasoning is foundational in undergraduate medical education (UME), the current literature lacks a clear picture of the clinical reasoning curriculum in preclinical phase of UME. This scoping review explores the mechanisms of clinical reasoning education in preclinical UME.

METHOD: A scoping review was performed in accordance with the Arksey and O'Malley framework methodology for scoping reviews and is reported using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis for Scoping Reviews.

RESULTS: The initial database search identified 3,062 articles. Of these, 241 articles were selected for a full-text review. Twenty-one articles, each reporting a single clinical reasoning curriculum, were selected for inclusion. Six of the reports included a definition of clinical reasoning, and 7 explicitly reported the theory underlying the curriculum. Reports varied in the identification of clinical reasoning content domains and teaching strategies. Only 4 curricula reported assessment validity evidence.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on this scoping review, we recommend 5 key principles for educators to consider when reporting clinical reasoning curricula in preclinical UME: (1) explicitly define clinical reasoning within the report; (2) report clinical reasoning theory(ies) used in the development of the curriculum; (3) clearly identify which clinical reasoning domains are addressed in the curriculum; (4) report validity evidence for assessments when available; and (5) describe how the reported curriculum fits into the larger clinical reasoning education at the institution.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademic Medicine
StateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2023


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