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Fam Med. 2005 Jan;37(1):30-5.

Characteristics of effective clinical teachers.

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  • 1Family Medicine Residency, Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.



Defining what makes an exceptional teacher is challenging. This study's objectives were to identify teaching attributes that residents and faculty value most and to determine whether the opinions of residents and faculty differed.


A list of 15 teaching attributes was distributed to residents and faculty at eight family medicine residency programs. Respondents were asked to indicate the three most important and the three least important attributes of effective clinical educators.


Overall response rates were 58% for residents and 65% for faculty. Residents and faculty agreed that being enthusiastic and having clinical competence are important attributes and that scholarly activity is not as important. Residents felt it is important for an educator to respect their autonomy and independence as clinicians, whereas faculty members felt that this was among the least important traits. Faculty felt that serving as a role model worth emulating was important, but residents ranked this at the bottom of their list. Residents placed a higher premium on a faculty member's ability to answer questions clearly and explain difficult topics (labeled "clarity" in our study) and felt more strongly that it was important for quality educators to be readily available and able to provide a safe, nonjudgmental, nonthreatening learning environment.


There are areas of agreement and disagreement between faculty and residents about attributes of effective clinical teachers. With the implementation of competency-based assessment systems, it will become important to determine which attributes actually promote the development of competence among learners, thereby allowing the encouragement of those attributes.

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