Faculty development initiatives designed to promote leadership in medical education. A BEME systematic review: BEME Guide No. 19

Med Teach. 2012;34(6):483-503. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.680937.


Background: Due to the increasing complexity of medical education and practice, the preparation of healthcare professionals for leadership roles and responsibilities has become increasingly important. To date, the literature on faculty development designed to promote leadership in medical education has not been reviewed in a systematic fashion.

Aim: The objective of this review is to synthesize the existing evidence that addresses the following question: 'What are the effects of faculty development interventions designed to improve leadership abilities on the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of faculty members in medicine and on the institutions in which they work?'

Search strategy: The search, which covered the period 1980-2009, included six databases (Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science, ERIC, and ABI/Inform) and used the following keywords: faculty development; in-service training; doctor; medic; physician; faculty; leadership; management; administration; executive; and change agent. Hand searches were also conducted, and expert recommendations were solicited.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria: Articles with a focus on faculty development to improve leadership, targeting basic science and clinical faculty members, were reviewed. All study designs that included outcome data beyond participant satisfaction were examined. From an initial 687 unique records, 48 articles met the review criteria in three broad categories: (1) reports in which leadership was the primary focus of the intervention; (2) reports in which leadership was a component of a broader focus on educational development; and (3) reports in which leadership was a component of a broader focus on academic career development.

Data extraction: Data were extracted by three coders using the standardized Best Evidence Medical Education coding sheet adapted for our use. One reviewer coded all of the articles, and two reviewers each coded half of the dataset. Coding differences were resolved through discussion.

Data synthesis: Data were synthesized using Kirkpatrick's four levels of educational outcomes. Findings were grouped by intervention type and level of outcome.

Results: Forty-eight articles described 41 studies of 35 different interventions. The majority of the interventions targeted clinical faculty members and included workshops, short courses, fellowships, and other longitudinal programs. The majority of studies were quantitative in nature, though five studies used a qualitative design, and 12 studies used mixed methods. All quantitative studies were quasi-experimental and most employed a single group design; only two studies had a comparison group. Qualitative study designs were typically not specified. The majority of evaluation data, primarily collected post-intervention, consisted of participants' responses to questionnaires and interviews. KEY POINTS AND SUMMARY OF OUTCOMES: Despite methodological limitations, the faculty development literature tends to support the following outcomes: ▪ High satisfaction with faculty development programs. Participants consistently found programs to be useful and of both personal and professional benefit. They also valued the practical relevance and applicability of the instructional methods used. ▪ A change in attitudes toward organizational contexts and leadership roles. Participants reported positive changes in attitudes toward their own organizations as well as their leadership capabilities. Some reported an increased awareness of--and commitment to--their institution's vision and challenges, whereas others reported greater self-awareness of personal strengths and limitations, increased motivation, and confidence in their leadership roles. A greater sense of community and appreciation of the benefits of networking were also identified. ▪ Gains in knowledge and skills. Participants reported increased knowledge of leadership concepts, principles, and strategies (e.g., leadership styles and strategic planning), gains in specific leadership skills (e.g., personal effectiveness and conflict resolution), and increased awareness of leadership roles in academic settings. ▪ Changes in leadership behavior. Self-perceived changes in leadership behavior were consistently reported and included a change in leadership styles, the application of new skills to the workplace (e.g., departmental reorganization and team building), the adoption of new leadership roles and responsibilities, and the creation of new collaborations and networks. Observed changes primarily suggested new leadership positions. ▪ Limited changes in organizational practice. Although not frequently examined, changes in organizational practice included the implementation of specific educational innovations, an increased emphasis on educational scholarship, and the establishment of collegial networks. ▪ Key features of faculty development. Features contributing to positive outcomes included the use of: multiple instructional methods within single interventions; experiential learning and reflective practice; individual and group projects; peer support and the development of communities of practice; mentorship; and institutional support. ▪ Avenues for future development: Moving forward, faculty development programs should: ground their work in a theoretical framework; articulate their definition of leadership; consider the role of context; explore the value of extended programs and follow-up sessions; and promote the use of alternative practices including narrative approaches, peer coaching, and team development. METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES: More rigorous and diverse research designs are needed to capture the complexity of interventions in this area. Varied methods of assessment, utilizing multiple data sources to tap changes at the interpersonal and organizational level should be explored, as should the maintenance of change over time. Process-oriented studies, comparing different faculty development strategies and clarifying the process of change through faculty development, should also become a priority.

Conclusion: Participants value leadership development activities and report changes in attitudes, knowledge, skills and behavior. Moreover, despite methodological limitations, certain program characteristics seem to be associated with positive outcomes. Further research is required to explore these associations and document changes at both the individual and organizational level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Education, Medical*
  • Education, Professional / organization & administration*
  • Faculty / organization & administration*
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Leadership*
  • Learning
  • Staff Development / organization & administration*