(This post summarizes key points from AMEE Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a lecturer–the twelve roles of the teacher by R.M. Harden & Joy Crosby)
In our talk of teaching, we often focus quite narrowly on classroom-based teaching – team-based learning (our SGL) and lecturing – and on clerkship seminars and bedside teaching. By doing so, we can overlook some of the other roles required in medical education.
In fact, there are 12 roles of teachers in medical education and each is worth exploring.
Harden and Crosby (2000) identified these 12 roles based on their analysis of “the tasks expected of the teacher in the design and implementation of a curriculum in one medical school”; a study of “diaries kept by 12 medical students over a three-month period”, which analyzed their comments on teacher roles; and from other literature on the roles of teachers in medical education (p. 336). They then validated the 12 roles they identified using a questionnaire completed by 251 teachers at the University of Dundee Medical School.
Harden and Crosby grouped their 12 roles into six areas of activity (two roles each) and further noted which roles required medical expertise and which teaching expertise and which involved direct student contact, with the remaining with students at a distance to the activity.
How many of these areas of activity and roles do you recognize in your own teaching practice?
Information provider – lecturer, clinical or practical teaching
“The teacher is seen as an expert who is knowledgeable in his or her field, and who conveys that knowledge to students usually by word of mouth,” they note, pointing out in all contexts the teacher selects, organizes and delivers information.” They stress that “The clinical setting, whether in the hospital or in the community, is a powerful context for the transmission, by the clinical teacher, of information directly relevant to the practice of medicine.” (p. 337)
Role model – on-the-job role model; teaching role model
“Students learn by observation and imitation of the clinical teachers they respect. Students learn not just from what their teachers say but from what they do in their clinical practice and the knowledge, skills and attitudes they exhibit,” Harden and Crosby wrote (p. 338). This role modelling extends to classroom-based activities, too: “The good teacher who is also a doctor can describe… to a class of students, his/her approach to the clinical problem being discussed in a way that captures the importance of the subject and the choices available.” (p. 339)
Facilitator – learning facilitator; mentor
“The introduction of problem-based learning … has highlighted the change in the role of the teacher from one of information provider to one of facilitator. The teacher’s role is not to inform the students but to encourage and facilitate them to learn for themselves using the problem as a focus for the learning.” (p. 339) Harden and Crosby note that the mentor role, while highly valued “is often misunderstood or ambiguous” (p 339) but suggest “the mentor is usually not the member of staff who is responsible for the teaching or assessment of the student” and that “Mentorship is less about reviewing the student’s performance in a subject or an examination and more about a wider view of issues relating to the student.” (p. 339)
Assessor – student assessor; curriculum evaluator
“The assessment of the student’s competence is one of the most important tasks facing the teacher,” they note. “Examining does represent a distinct and potentially separate role for the teacher,” they added, noting: “It is possible for someone to be an ‘expert teacher’ but not an expert examiner.” (p. 340)
“Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the teaching of courses and curricula is now recognized as an integral part of the educational process. The quality of the teaching and learning process needs to be assessed through student feedback, peer evaluation and assessment of the product of the educational program.” (p. 340).
Planner – Course organizer; curriculum planner
For Harden and Crosby, curriculum planning and organizing courses goes hand-in-hand. The note that “Curriculum planning presents a significant challenge for the teacher and both time and expertise are required if the job is to be undertaken properly” (p. 341) while being an essential first step. This is closely followed by the importance of planning on the individual course level: “The best curriculum in the world will be ineffective if the courses that comprise it have little or no relationship to the curriculum that is in place. Once the principles that underpin the curriculum of the institution have been agreed, detailed planning is then required at the level of the individual course.” (p. 341).
Resource developer – study guide producer; resource material creator
The increasing importance of the role of resource material creator helps students navigate in increased amount and quality of information available. “With problem-based learning and other student-centred approaches, students are dependent on having appropriate resource material available for use either as individuals or in groups.” (p. 341). The role of curator, through structured study guides, also helps navigate these resources: “Study guides…can be seen as the students’ personal tutor available 24 hours a day and designed to assist the students with their learning. (p. 341).
At different times, you may be called upon to fill any or all of these roles. If you’re interested in exploring any of them further, get in touch. I’m here to help you with all aspects of your teaching practice.