Workshop C — Teaching the Clinical Reasoning Process

Robert Lowe, MD, and Warren Hershman, MD

Diagnosis is one of the key responsibilities of a physician or physician assistant, and the process of clinical reasoning has been the subject of a large body of educational research.  In this workshop, the authors will present an update on the current state-of-knowledge regarding clinical reasoning using an interactive lecture format.  The group will then be divided into subgroups that will practice these skills by role-playing as teachers and learners, with observation and feedback provided by workshop members and faculty.

Target Audience:

Preclinical and Clinical Faculty who want to learn more about the process of clinical reasoning


The clinical reasoning process is a key function of physicians and physician assistants.  Understanding the current models of clinical reasoning and the established methods of teaching this skill will improve the clinical education of our students, and also inform the pre-clinical faculty about the reasoning process, allowing them to devise case-based sessions and exam questions that foster good clinical reasoning.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the key elements of the diagnostic reasoning process.
  • Describe the vocabulary and tools provided to teach diagnostic reasoning.
  • Apply these teaching tools to the spectrum of learners – novice to expert
  • Observe and practice the use of the following:
    1. Problem representation
    2. Illness scripts
    3. Analytical and Non-Analytical Clinical Reasoning


Welcome/Overview (2 minutes)

Introduction to Clinical Reasoning Overview (10 minutes)

Role modeling the Clinical Reasoning process (10 minutes)

Tools for the Teacher: Problem Representation, Illness Scripts & Key Reasoning Patterns (10 minutes)

How & When do you use these tools? (10 minutes)

Role Play Practice Session (30 minutes)

  • Practice using Teaching Tool Questions
  • Encourage use of Diagnostic Reasoning terms, recognize illness scripts
  • Effectively teach Diagnostic Reasoning

Summary of lessons expressed during the Practice Session (5 minutes)

Group Discussion and Q&A (15 minutes)