The use of abstract paintings and narratives to foster reflective capacity in medical educators: a multinational faculty development workshop

The humanities including narrative and the visual arts can serve as a valuable tool for fostering reflection.

by Khaled Karkabi , Hedy S Wald, Orit Cohen Castel + Author Affiliations

Department of Family Medicine, Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee District, Haifa, Israel
The Division of Family Medicine, The Ruth & Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
Department of Family Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
The Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Correspondence to
Dr Khaled Karkabi, Family Medicine, Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Pob 8273, Haifa 31082, Israel;,

Published Online First 22 November 2013


Reflective capacity is integral to core healthcare professional practice competencies. Reflection plays a central role in teacher education as reflecting on teaching behaviours with critical analysis can potentially improve teaching practice. The humanities including narrative and the visual arts can serve as a valuable tool for fostering reflection.

We conducted a multinational faculty development workshop aiming to enhance reflective capacity in medical educators by using a combination of abstract paintings and narratives. Twenty-three family physicians or physicians-in-training from 10 countries participated in the workshop. Qualitative assessment of the workshop showed that the combined use of art and narrative was well received and perceived as contributing to the reflective exercise.

Participants generally felt that viewing abstract paintings had facilitated a valuable mood transformation and prepared them emotionally for the reflective writing.

Our analysis found that the following themes emerged from participants’ responses: (1) narratives from different countries are similar; (2) the use of art helped access feelings; (3) viewing abstract paintings facilitated next steps; (4) writing reflective narratives promoted examination of educational challenges, compassion for self and other, and building an action plan; and (5) sharing of narrative was helpful for fostering active listening and appreciating multiple perspectives.

Future research might include comparing outcomes for a group participating in arts–narrative-based workshops with those of a control group using only reflective narrative or in combination with figurative art, and implementing a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of assessment.

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