A scoping review of adaptive expertise in education

Med Teach. 2021 Mar;43(3):347-355. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1851020. Epub 2020 Nov 28.


Adaptive expertise encompasses efficiency and innovation; however little is known about the state of research of adaptive expertise in medical education. Our scoping review summarizes existing evidence in the conceptual frameworks, development, and measurement for adaptive expertise. We searched Pubmed, MEDLINE, ERIC, CINAHL and PsycINFO for original research articles published from 1986 onwards in English. Given the heterogeneity of the studies, no quantitative syntheses were conducted and the articles were summarized qualitatively. Of the 48 articles that met inclusion criteria, 19 examined conceptual frameworks, 24 explored interventions supporting development and 5 examined measurement. Conceptual frameworks are consistent within and beyond health professions education. Factors influencing development include: predisposing factors such as knowledge (ability to integrate knowledge and innovate), beliefs and attitudes (high motivation and humility), enabling factors such as skills (people skills, implementing reflection and scholarly activities), resources such as curricular enablers (providing variability of cases, allowing flexibility to generate solutions, critical appraisal of textbooks) and reinforcing factors such as mentor-guided feedback and constant curricular review. Two validated measurement tools exist for adaptive expertise. Substantial research opportunities exist in studying interventions involving the development of adaptive expertise. Notable gaps exist in the development and validation of measurement tools.

Keywords: Adaptive expertise; medical education; scoping review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical*
  • Educational Status
  • Humans