Posted: April 3, 2020

Reflective Essays in Graduate Medical Education- Do they really matter?


Reflective writing is increasingly becoming a part of the undergraduate and graduate medical education curriculum. Analysis of these essays varies with respect to the understanding of personal weakness, strengths, wellness, intellectual and emotional intelligence. While traditional assessment assesses only cognitive intelligence, reflection is a critical pedagogy to understand the learners as a person, their engagement and perspective. This study aims to assess through reflective essays, Resident understanding of community resources and impact of these resources on the residents for their patient care rotating through community pediatrics rotation through Michigan State –Sparrow Hospital pediatric residency program. Residents (n=12) rotate through the community pediatrics curriculum for four weeks duration every year. They are required to experience community resources (WIC, early childhood services, Ele’s place a resource for the grieving child, etc.) along with clinics. Residents write a reflective essay at the end of the rotation on their experiences, which are graded for formative feedback. A rubric is used to grade these reflective essays, which has elements of the organization, identified self-growth, personal experiences, engagement, and understanding of system-based practice. Sixty reflective essays from the past five years were reviewed using the designed rubric. International medical graduates scored lower in organization and structure but scored higher in identified areas of personal growth. All residents showed a high score on their engagement which was assessed with the narrative depth of their experiences, lessons learned and application for day to day practice. Reflective writing complements traditional assessment with a more rounded approach to a resident experience, which helps to understand their self-growth. This also indicates understanding the objectives of the rotation and their engagement.


Sathyanarayan Sudhanthar M.D, MPH, Michigan State University
Kripa Thakur M.D., Michigan State University

Learner Audience

Undergraduate Medical Education (UME), Graduate Medical Education (GME), Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Professional Development (CME/CPD), Interprofessional


Practice Based Learning and Improvement

Resource Type(s)

Distance Learning - Asynchronous

Instructional Method(s)

Self-Directed Learning


GME, Engagement, Program Evaluation, Reflective Essay, Grading Rubric, Self Growth, AAMC CGEA Spring Meeting