There are many definitions of clinical reasoning but one that covers the general principles is described by Higgs (1990, cited in Christiansen & Baum, 1997, p. 161), “the process of using thinking, interpersonal and clinical skills and knowledge in order to acquire, evaluate and make sense of the mass of clinical information available to the health carer during interactions with clients”.  Defining a clinical question from a ‘mass of information’ provided about or by a client in a clinical setting is a complex process.  According to Christiansen & Baum (1997, p. 160) this involves an interaction of the therapist’s evaluation of cues, the task, the context, utilising of skills, knowledge, metacognition and cognition, with the output being communication with the client or education to the student. A reflective framework using key occupational models of practice, can provide a framework for communicating clinical reasoning with a student.

Clinical reasoning is addressed in far more detail under the Core Clinical Education Skills section of this site. Definitions, types of clinical reasoning and useful resources can be found there.

Reflection Activity

Consider how you would explain the concept of clinical reasoning to your student. Can you provide some practical examples for them?





Christiansen, C., & Baum, C. (1997). Enabling function and well-being (2nd ed.).  Thorofare: Slack.


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