Reflection and reflective practice in health professions education: a systematic review

  • Karen MannEmail author
  • Jill Gordon
  • Anna MacLeod


The importance of reflection and reflective practice are frequently noted in the literature; indeed, reflective capacity is regarded by many as an essential characteristic for professional competence. Educators assert that the emergence of reflective practice is part of a change that acknowledges the need for students to act and to think professionally as an integral part of learning throughout their courses of study, integrating theory and practice from the outset. Activities to promote reflection are now being incorporated into undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing medical education, and across a variety of health professions. The evidence to support and inform these curricular interventions and innovations remains largely theoretical. Further, the literature is dispersed across several fields, and it is unclear which approaches may have efficacy or impact. We, therefore, designed a literature review to evaluate the existing evidence about reflection and reflective practice and their utility in health professional education. Our aim was to understand the key variables influencing this educational process, identify gaps in the evidence, and to explore any implications for educational practice and research.


Health professional education Practicing health professionals Health professional students Reflection Reflective practice Systematic literature review 



We acknowledge with thanks the contribution to the conduct of this study by the Society of Directors of Research in Medical Education. Thanks also to Drs. Kevin Eva and Joan Sargeant for their helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Medical Education, Faculty of MedicineDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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