Widening the lens on teaching and assessing clinical reasoning: From "in the head" to "out in the world"

Dario Torre*, Steven J. Durning, Joseph Rencic, Valerie Lang, Eric Holmboe, Michelle Daniel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Traditional teaching and assessment of clinical reasoning has focused on the individual clinician because of the preeminence of the information processing (IP) theory perspective. The clinician's mind has been viewed as the main source of effective or ineffective reasoning, and other participants, the environment and their interactions have been largely ignored. A social cognitive theoretical lens could enhance our understanding of how reasoning and error and the environment are linked. Therefore, a new approach in which the clinical reasoning process is situated and examined within the context may be required. The theories of embodied cognition, ecological psychology, situated cognition (SitCog) and distributed cognition (DCog) offer new insights to help the teacher and assessor enhance the quality of clinical reasoning instruction and assessment. We describe the teaching and assessment implications of clinical reasoning and error through the lens of this family of theories. Direct observation in different contexts focused on individual and team performance, simulation (with or without enhancement of technology), stimulated recall, think-aloud, and modeling are examples of teaching and assessment strategies grounded in this family of social cognitive theories. Educators may consider the instructional design of learning environments and educational tools that promote a situated educational approach to the teaching and assessment of clinical reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • assessment
  • clinical reasoning
  • distributed cognition
  • ecological psychology
  • embodied cognition
  • error
  • situated cognition
  • situativity
  • social cognitive theories
  • teaching


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