Reflecting with Compassion on Student Feedback

Social Sciences in Medicine


  • Wendy Anne Lowe Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London



Student feedback, social science, medical education, health professional education, compassionate pedagogy


This reflective piece of writing explores the experience of gaining medical student feedback that is negative in the context of teaching social sciences in a medical school. There are a number of different ways in which an educator can explore negative feedback and respond. Some ways may be less helpful than others even though they reflect prevailing dominant thinking within higher education and how students are perceived.

Compassionate pedagogy provides an avenue for allowance of challenging feedback and situations, as well as an unpacking of assumptions made about teaching and medical students, in a way that is respectful of the teacher, student and ultimately the patient. Since the way students are treated can be seen as an exemplar for how they will then go on to view and treat the patient, the compassion gap within universities (that train health professionals to then work with patients) is astonishing as noted by Waddington (2016).

Drawing on theory from the social sciences as well as medical humanities, this paper uses reflective practice (Foley, 2002), critical pedagogy (Freire, 2000) as well as intelligent kindness (Ballett & Campling, 2011) to analyse a student feedback experience within medical education and asks the question of how can compassion be integrated in a biomedical field where the emphasis is on science, with all the implications that has for the learner? This question centres on the relative valuing of objective facts over subjectivity of experience.

Using compassionate pedagogy, some suggestions or, food for thought, are made on how to re-interpret negative student feedback that negotiates the tricky area between social science and medicine, whilst not negating either.

Author Biography

Wendy Anne Lowe, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London

Wendy Lowe is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Sociology & Medical Education and Module Lead for the Human Science Public Health module in Years 2 and 3 of the MBBS and GEP (Years 1 and 2) at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Her PhD explored how health professionals are educated and some of the consequences of that.
Email: Twitter: @medsocmeded


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