Learning communication by analysing it—using linguistics and technology in clinical communication education

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Students learn doctor-patient communication by participating and reflecting on simulated consultations in experiential interactional workshops. This requires meta-analytic skills to unpack human communication, which, however, is not part of the training for either teachers or students, leading to varied understandings of good practice. Learning can become anecdotal when support for retention outside the workshop is minimal.
To mitigate these shortcomings, we aimed to develop an analytical tool for undergraduate medical education, drawing on methods in conversation analysis (CA) and discourse analysis (DA); and to incorporate new technology to enhance the pedagogy and develop andragogy.
An interdisciplinary team identified and adapted 15 analytical concepts and terms under three analytical themes, which we call the Tool. An e-learning platform was developed to support learning of the Tool and of communication. Interventions included face-to-face training and self-directed e-learning. Participants were 17 medical students and six teachers, with whom we evaluated the intervention and its impact on participants’ analytical skills.
Preliminary findings from participants suggest that the intervention enhanced their understanding of communication, provided a common language to achieve consistent analysis and allowed evidenced-based and systematic analysis. The data about participants’ analytical skills are being analysed and will be ready for presentation in the conference.
Reflection and the reflective practitioner are central to the epistemology of professional practice. This Tool supports such development by transforming students’ intuitive feelings into systematic and evidence-based reflection. The e-learning is a timely response to the current changing educational ecology and suits the learning preferences of medical students as adult learners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCOMET conference 2015, University of Hong Kong
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2015


  • clinical communication training
  • Medical Education
  • technology enhanced pedagogy
  • andragogy
  • conversation analysis
  • Discourse analysis


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