Purpose: This study sought to identify students' perceptions about characteristics of faculty who had positively influenced their clinical education and to determine whether the students' perceptions matched those published for residents.
Method: On exit surveys in 1997 and 1998, students graduating from Baylor College of Medicine were asked to list clinical faculty who had "significantly and positively influenced their clinical education" and to describe that influence. Using codes derived from Ullian's earlier 1994 study regarding residents' perceptions, the authors classified 1,153 written descriptions that expressed a single characteristic or teacher attribute into five roles: person, physician, supervisor, teacher, and unspecified (global). For each role, categories expressing similar characteristics were grouped into clusters. Although one author coded all descriptions, interrater reliability (.93) was determined by having an assistant code a set of randomly selected descriptions.
Results: The medical students ranked characteristics of the teacher role highest. In contrast, Ullian's residents ranked characteristics of the supervisor role highest.
Conclusion: Medical students and residents differ substantially in their perceptions of the roles and characteristics of their influential clinical teachers. The results in this study corroborate Stritter's learning vector theory. Thus, learners' perceptions of the value of their teachers' behaviors change during their professional development. These perceptual changes may explain why medical students and residents assess the same faculty's teaching very differently. These results also support the need to prepare clinical faculty differently for working with medical students as compared with residents.