Building a research agenda in health professions education at a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences : current research profile and future considerations

Bezuidenhout, Juanita ; Van Schalkwyk, Susan ; Van Heerden, Ben ; De Villiers, Marietjie (2014-10)

CITATION: Bezuidenhout, J., Van Schalkwyk, S., Van Heerden, B. & De Villiers, M. 2014. Building a research agenda in health professions education at a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences: Current research profile and future considerations. African Journal of Health Professions Education, 6(2):169, doi:10.7196/ajhpe.288.

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Background. To generate evidence in and for health professions education (HPE) that can enable reform and establish new relevance, a comprehensive HPE research foundation is required. Gaps identified in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) HPE literature should be addressed, while a need for more clarificatory and collaborative research to strengthen evidence has been expressed. Relatively few HPE centres exist in SSA. At Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) the Centre for HPE was established in 2006, followed by an HPE Research Unit in 2011. Objectives. To determine and analyse the current status of educational research in the FMHS, thereby contributing to conversations around an HPE research agenda for Africa. Methods. A database of all HPE-related research was compiled, followed by a desktop analysis of all documents pertaining to current educational research projects in the FMHS in 2012, categorising projects according to: general information; sites where research was conducted; research focus; and research purpose. All data were recorded in an Excel spreadsheet and a descriptive analysis was performed. Results. There were 106 projects, mostly aimed at undergraduate programmes. More than half focused on teaching and learning, while a few focused on assessment. A number of projects were community-based or involved national and/or international collaborations. Only 20% of projects were classified as clarification research. Discussion. Educational research appears healthy in the FMHS, but more clarificatory and macro-projects are required. The profile of research is similar to the SSA profile. A research strategy relevant and feasible in our context has to be established with a shift to areas beyond our professional/ institutional boundaries, posing HPE questions of relevance to South Africa and the African continent.

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