An alternative approach to defining the role of the clinical teacher

Acad Med. 1994 Oct;69(10):832-8. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199410000-00013.


Background: A number of studies have attempted to identify the components of the clinical teacher role by examining learners' numerical ratings of items on researcher-generated lists. Some of these studies have also compared different groups' perceptions of clinical teaching, but have not directly compared the perceptions of first- and third-year residents. This study addressed two questions: (1) What do residents consider important components of the clinical teacher role? (2) Do first- and third-year residents perceive this role similarly?

Method: A content analysis was performed on the comments written on evaluation forms by 268 residents about 490 clinical teachers over a five-year period (1980-81 through 1984-85) at a large family practice residency. Of 5,664 forms completed by the residents, 2,388 (42%) contained written comments; comments were on 1,024 (46%) of the first-year resident's forms, 701 (41%) of the second-year residents' forms, and 663 (39%) of the third-year residents' forms. Themes in these comments were coded into a coding dictionary of 157 categories, within 37 clusters, within four roles.

Results: The ten highest-ranked categories (Global; Teaching: General; Knowledgeable; Gives Resident Responsibility; Supportive; Miscellaneous; Interested in Teaching; Clinical Competence; Makes Effort to Teach; and Gives Resident Opportunity to Do Procedures) accounted for 41% of the themes coded. The first- and third-year residents differed in the clusters they used to describe their clinical teachers on evaluation forms (chi 2 = 149.86, df = 36, p < .0001).

Conclusion: The results suggest that content analysis can be used to validly and reliably study residents' written evaluative comments about their teachers. This study contributes to the definition of the clinical teacher role, showing the relative importances of its components, and also supports Stritter's Learning Vector theory, finding the anticipated differences between the comments made by first- and third-year residents.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching*
  • United States