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Med Educ. 2016 Jan;50(1):24-35. doi: 10.1111/medu.12765.

Setting the standard: Medical Education's first 50 years.

Author information

Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Wilson Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Family and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Centre for Ambulatory Care Education, Women's College Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada.



By understanding its history, the medical education community gains insight into why it thinks and acts as it does. This piece provides a Foucauldian archaeological critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the journal Medical Education on the publication of its 50th Volume. This analysis draws upon critical social science perspectives to allow the examination of unstated assumptions that underpin and shape educational tools and practices.


A Foucauldian form of CDA was utilised to examine the journal over its first half-century. This approach emphasises the importance of language, and the ways in which words used affect and are affected by educational practices and priorities. An iterative methodology was used to organise the very large dataset (12,000 articles). A distilled dataset, within which particular focus was placed on the editorial pieces in the journal, was analysed.


A major finding was the diversity of the journal as a site that has permitted multiple - and sometimes contradictory - discursive trends to emerge. One particularly dominant discursive tension across the time span of the journal is that between a persistent drive for standardisation and a continued questioning of the desirability of standardisation. This tension was traced across three prominent areas of focus in the journal: objectivity and the nature of medical education knowledge; universality and local contexts, and the place of medical education between academia and the community.


The journal has provided the medical education community with a place in which to both discuss practical pedagogical concerns and ponder conceptual and social issues affecting the medical education community. This dual nature of the journal brings together educators and researchers; it also gives particular focus to a major and rarely cited tension in medical education between the quest for objective standards and the limitations of standard measures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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