Teaching for clinical reasoning – helping students make the conceptual links
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INTRODUCTION: The paper provides a theoretical framework for understanding how conceptual learning is achieved, and the way in which conceptual understanding influences clinical reasoning and the ability to transfer theoretical understandings to the clinical contact. From this point of departure, the paper describes teaching strategies that facilitate the kinds of learning that students need in order to develop conceptual understanding and to be able to transfer knowledge from the theoretical to the clinical context. The value of concept mapping as a strategy for assisting the development of conceptual understanding, and for facilitating later transfer, is highlighted. The paper makes a specific contribution to dental education in that it extrapolates understandings about conceptual learning, concept mapping and clinical reasoning from the medical and higher education contexts and facilitates application of these concepts in dental education. However, insights from the paper will have general applicability to other fields of health sciences education since the paper highlights the role that conceptual understanding plays in the transfer of preclinical knowledge to the clinical application context.