Re-visioning Academic Medicine Through a Constructionist Lens

Charlotte E Rees, Paul E S Crampton, Lynn V Monrouxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constructionism in academic medicine matters. It encourages educators and researchers to question taken-for-granted assumptions, paying close attention to socially and historically-contingent meanings. In this Invited Commentary, the authors explain what constructionism is; examine its ontological, epistemological, and axiological underpinnings; and outline its common methodologies and methods. Although constructivism favors the individual; constructionism privileges the social as the controlling force behind the construction of meaning. Where micro-constructionism attends to the minutiae of language, macro-constructionism focuses on broader discourses reproduced through material and social practices and structures. While social constructionists might situate themselves at any point on the relativist-realist continuum, many constructionists focus on constructionism as epistemology (the nature of knowledge) rather than ontology (the nature of reality). From an epistemological standpoint, constructionism asserts that how we come to know the world is constructed through social interaction. Constructionism thus values language, dialogue, and context, in addition to internal coherence between epistemology, methodology, and methods. Constructionism similarly values the concepts of dependability, authenticity, credibility, confirmability, reflexivity, and transferability. It also embraces the researcher-researched relationship. Given the privileging of language, qualitative methodologies and methods are key in constructionism, with constructionist-type questions focusing on how people speak. Here, the authors encourage the reader to develop an understanding of constructionism in order to re-vision academic medicine through a constructionist lens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalAcademic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Issue number21
Early online date3 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2019

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