skip to Main Content



Section Contents:


This Online Supplement (OS) was inspired by a growing need in health professions education and practice to prepare clinicians for a multitude of social roles within a complex health and social care system. 

Traditionally, health professions education has focused on technical and practical knowledge (i.e. biomedical sciences, clinical skills). However, increasing calls to prepare clinicians for social roles like the health advocate, collaborator, and professional, make a strong case for the inclusion of critical knowledge within health professions curricula.

In the table below, Arno Kumagai adapts the work of philosopher Jürgen Habermas to a health professions education context. The table outlines three different types of human interests (goals for education), the types of knowledge needed to support these goals, and how these different goals and forms of knowledge align with the goals of health professions educationKumagai argues that critical knowledge is most relevant to health professions education areas like professionalism, cultural competency, and ethics.

Although there are many different ways of teaching for critical knowledge and toward transformation (e.g. critical aesthetic pedagogy, feminist pedagogy), in this OS we draw upon critical pedagogy. Here, critical refers to a focus on questioning assumptions, attending to power relations, revealing the problems and opportunities these assumptions and relations may otherwise mask, and striving for transformation through positive change. And pedagogy refers to theories and practices of teaching and education.

Just as there are multiple types of knowledge, there are also multiple ways of thinking about education. Critical pedagogy is situated within a transformative paradigm of thought about education. Paradigms of education influence what we believe the purpose of education is, and the subsequent decisions we make about curriculum, teaching, and assessment. A transformative paradigm of education sees learning as a shift in one’s way of seeing the social world, and thus education as a mechanism for change. 


Habermas J. Knowledge and Human Interests. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press; 1971.

Kumagai AK. From competencies to human interests: ways of knowing and understanding in medical educationAcademic Medicine. 2013;89(7):978-983.

Back To Top