Embracing the tension between vulnerability and credibility: ‘intellectual candour’ in health professions education

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The tension between expressing vulnerability and seeking credibility creates challenges for learning and teaching. This is particularly true in health care, in which practitioners are regarded as highly credible and making errors can often lead to dire consequences and blame. From a transformative learning perspective, expressing vulnerability may help individuals to access different ways of knowing. By contrast, from a sociological perspective, seeking to maintain credibility results in ritualised interactions and these ritualised encounters can reinforce credibility. One means of embracing this tension between expressing vulnerability and appearing credible is ‘intellectual candour’, an improvisational expression of doubts, thoughts and problems with the dual purpose of learning and promoting others’ learning. Educators’ revelations of inner struggles are proposed as a means of inviting reciprocal vulnerability. This builds trust and a platform for learning, particularly of the transformative nature. It also allows modelling of how to balance the vulnerability–credibility tension, which may provide a template for professional practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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