Transformative Learning in Graduate Medical Education: A Scoping Review

Benjamin Vipler, Amy Knehans, Daniel Rausa, Paul Haidet, Jennifer McCall-Hosenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background Transformative learning (TL) is an educational theory focused on deep fundamental shifts in an individual’s worldview. Such shifts are well known to occur within graduate medical education (GME). However, TL in GME has yet to be formally explored. Objective We performed a scoping review of the literature on TL within GME to identify areas where trainees currently experience or have potential to experience TL, and to explore areas where fostering TL has been used as a pedagogical tool. Methods In January 2020, we searched 7 databases to identify literature on TL in GME. Additional articles were identified by hand-searching the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. Results A total of 956 articles were identified through database search with 3 unique articles found via hand-searching. Abstracts and manuscripts were screened by 2 authors and disagreements arbitrated by a third, yielding 28 articles for our analysis. The main components of TL (disorienting dilemma, reflection, discourse, action) took various forms. TL was closely linked with professionalism training and professional identity formation. Training programs in primary care fields were most frequently referenced. Often, trainees were experiencing TL without recognition of the theory by their educators. Gaps in the graduate medical education literature exist pertaining to TL in venues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion. Conclusions Our scoping review uncovered the following themes: TL and professionalism, TL and primary care, and TL by other names. TL is likely occurring but going unrecognized in some settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-813
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of graduate medical education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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