There are educational principles that apply to the teaching of professionalism during undergraduate education and postgraduate training. It is axiomatic that there is a single cognitive base that applies with increasing moral force as students enter medical school, progress to residency or registrar training, and enter practice. While parts of this body of knowledge are easier to teach and learn at different stages of an individual's career, it remains a definable whole at all times and should be taught as such. While the principle that self-reflection on theoretical and real issues encountered in the life of a student, resident or practitioner is essential to the acquisition of experiential learning and the incorporation of the values and behaviors of the professional, the opportunities to provide situations where this can take place will change as an individual progresses through the system, as will the sophistication of the level of learning. Teaching the cognitive base of professionalism and providing opportunities for the internalization of its values and behaviors are the cornerstones of the organization of the teaching of professionalism at all levels. Situated learning theory appears to provide practical guidance as to how this may be implemented. While the application of this theory will vary with the type of curriculum, the institutional culture and the resources available, the principles outlined should remain constant.