Turning the Spotlight on Shame: Fostering Adaptive Responses to Feelings of Academic Shame in Medical Students

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The purpose of this action research study was to help medical students normalize feelings of shame related to academics and to respond to these feelings in more adaptive ways. Several

The purpose of this action research study was to help medical students normalize feelings of shame related to academics and to respond to these feelings in more adaptive ways. Several cycles of research informed this study, which investigated the influence of an educational innovation. The innovation focused on helping medical students understand feelings of shame, foster self-efficacy in shame resiliency practices, and encourage help-seeking behaviors. In short, the study sought to understand how these medical students responded to feelings of shame related to academic performance before and after participation in the educational innovation. A total of 14 second-year medical students participated in this concurrent mixed-method study. The educational innovation was designed by this action researcher and informed by Brené Brown’s shame resilience theory. Three sources of data were used to answer the research questions, including a pre- and post-innovation survey, interviews, and student journals. Major findings suggested that the educational innovation was effective in enhancing the study participants’ knowledge of shame, increasing perceptions of self-efficacy in the practices related to resiliency to feeling of academic shame, as well as, promoting help-seeking behaviors. The data also revealed a range of academic shame triggers identified by these medical students. This action research study validated the need to normalize feelings of shame and support medical students developing practices for resiliency to this powerful feeling.