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Acad Med. 2012 Oct;87(10):1389-96.

More is better: students describe successful and unsuccessful experiences with teachers differently in brief and longitudinal relationships.

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Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0120, USA.



Clerkship experiences that structure student-teacher continuity may promote learning differently than brief student-teacher relationships. The authors compared students' successful and unsuccessful teaching experiences in brief and longitudinal relationships.


A multicenter, qualitative interview study was conducted in 2009-2010 of students in two clerkship models that provide different durations of student-teacher relationships. Each student described a successful and unsuccessful teaching relationship early and late in the core clerkship year. Questions explored teachers' strategies and behaviors and students' efforts to improve unsuccessful relationships. Interview transcripts were coded to identify major themes.


Fifty-four students completed interviews. Students in brief relationships struggled to be known; students in longitudinal relationships felt respected as learners and partners. Teaching strategies differed in the two relationship durations. Questioning about factual knowledge was common in brief relationships; collaborative knowledge sharing and application to patients occurred in longitudinal relationships. Hierarchy characterized brief relationships. Longitudinal students experienced evolving expectations in response to their growing skills and contributions. Only students in longitudinal relationships described successfully intervening to improve unsuccessful relationships; students in brief relationships felt powerless.


Clerkship students in brief relationships learn to adapt to teachers' preferences and questioning to facilitate their participation and knowledge acquisition; longitudinal students experience collaborative interactions focused on their development as care providers. In longitudinal relationships, students gain confidence to influence their own learning and modify circumstances to meet their learning needs. These findings suggest that medical students' clinical experiences may be enhanced by deliberately structuring longitudinal attachments to supervisors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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