The #BestEducationPapers

So what are the “best education papers” that might impact medical and health professional education?  In the day of free open access medical education (FOAMed), many are forsaking going to the literature and reading journal articles.  I can remember a time not too long ago when I had to actually go the library, look up cited articles in volumes of Index Medicus (or on microfiche) and then journey to the depths of the stacks to find the journal and specific article.  Now I don’t really long for those days when I felt like a “journal miner” and I am grateful for the ability to access an article from any journal from the comfort of my computer.  But somehow, people have come to equate reading the peer reviewed literature as anachronistic.  Many of these articles are certainly dated and of little value today – but many have stood the test of time and are truly gems that we can all learn from.




So – what are the criteria for “best education papers” and how have I determined that?  

We probably don’t want to use “most cited” as a surrogate for “the best”.  

The most cited scientific article ever with over 300,000 citations is:

Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent. Lowry, O. H., Rosebrough, N. J., Farr, A. L. & Randall, R. J. J. Biol. Chem. 193, 265–275 (1951).

The most cited articles are often a reflection of (1) how old the article is and (2) articles that describe methods.  In a recent review by Azer (Academic Medicine, August 2015), he described features of the top-cited articles in medical education.  The majority of these articles were published in Academic Medicine and Medical Education.  Many of the articles were also published in non-medical education journals.  We have much to learn from the bigger world of education.


So what are the criteria that I have used for a “best paper”?

Well, simply put … these are classics.  

  • Articles that may have stood the test of time.  
  • Articles that I would like to share with aspiring educators.  
  • Articles I find myself quoting and referencing over and over again with my colleagues and students.  
  • Articles I keep in my back pocket.  
  • Articles that are cool.
  • Articles that I talk about at cocktail parties to non-educators (ok – I am a little bit of a loser, but at least I go to cocktail parties).

To help me create this list:

  1. I solicited input from education peers from across North America by email
  2. I reviewed the gray literature including blogs and websites
  3. I invited people to tweet their #BestEducationPaper.

Best Education Papers (in no particular order)

 1.  Ericsson KA. Deliberate practice and the acquisition and maintenance of expert performance in medicine and related domains. Acad Med. 2004;79(10 suppl):S70–S81.  

This article discusses how the acquisition of superior performance in medicine is closely related to engagement in practice with feedback during medical training.

2.  Kruger J. & Dunning D. ( 1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence leads to inflated self assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1999;77: 1121-34.  

A series of studies demonstrating that the least competent over-assessed their ability while the most competent under-assessed their ability.

3.    Rowe MB. Wait Time: Slowing Down May Be A Way of Speeding Up!. Journal of Teacher Education. 1986; 37: 43.

This classic paper reviews the importance of prolonging the time a teacher waits after asking a question.

4.    Schmidt HG, Norman GR, Boshuizen HP. A cognitive perspective on medical expertise: Theory and implication. Acad Med. 1990;65:611-621.

This article outlines a theory of development of expertise in medicine.  

5.    Mayer, RE. Applying the science of learning to medical education.  Medical Education 2010: 44: 543–549. 

Explains the relationship of visual presentation to learning.

6.    Frenk, J et al. Health professionals for a new century: transforming education to strengthen health systems in an interdependent world. The Lancet. 2010. 376(9756): 1923-1958. 

This article is a blueprint for health professional education in the 21st century.  They describe that learning needs to move from informative to formative          to transformative learning.

7.    Hafferty FW, Franks R. The hidden curriculum, ethics teaching, and the structure of medical education. Acad Med. 1994;69:861–871.

This classic article introduces the concept of the "hidden curriculum" and argues that it is the critical determinant of physician identity.

8.    Miller GE. The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Acad Med. 1990;65(9 ppl):S63–S67.  

Introduces the classic pyramid framework for assessment of competence in medicine and the health professions.

9.    Hojat M, Mangione S, Nasca TJ, et al. An empirical study of decline in empathy in medical school. Med Educ. 2004;38:934–941. 

This study sadly demonstrates that medical students’ empathy decline as they progress through medical school.

10.    Papadakis MA, Teherani A, Banach MA, et al. Disciplinary action by medical boards and prior behavior in medical school. N Engl J Med.             2005;353:2673–2682.  

This study demonstrated that disciplinary action among practicing physicians by medical boards was strongly associated with unprofessional behavior in medical school.

11.      Dudek NL, Marks MB, Regehr G. Failure to fail: The perspectives of clinical supervisors. Acad Med. 2005;80(Suppl. 10):S84–S87.

The study provides insight as to why supervisors fail to fail the poorly performing student and resident.    

12.     Steinert Y, Snell LS. Interactive lecturing: strategies for increasing participation in large group presentations. Medical Teacher. 1999;21(1):37-42).  

This "how to article" summarizes strategies and the evidence for using interactive techniques during lectures.