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BMC Med Educ. 2016 Feb 9;16:52. doi: 10.1186/s12909-016-0576-6.

Role Models and Teachers: medical students perception of teaching-learning methods in clinical settings, a qualitative study from Sri Lanka.

Author information

Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria St, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5B 2 K3.
Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya, Sri Lanka.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



Medical education research in general, and those focusing on clinical settings in particular, have been a low priority in South Asia. This explorative study from 3 medical schools in Sri Lanka, a South Asian country, describes undergraduate medical students' experiences during their final year clinical training with the aim of understanding the teaching-learning experiences.


Using qualitative methods we conducted an exploratory study. Twenty eight graduates from 3 medical schools participated in individual interviews. Interview recordings were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using qualitative content analysis method.


Emergent themes reveled 2 types of teaching-learning experiences, role modeling, and purposive teaching. In role modelling, students were expected to observe teachers while they conduct their clinical work, however, this method failed to create positive learning experiences. The clinical teachers who predominantly used this method appeared to be 'figurative' role models and were not perceived as modelling professional behaviors. In contrast, purposeful teaching allowed dedicated time for teacher-student interactions and teachers who created these learning experiences were more likely to be seen as 'true' role models. Students' responses and reciprocations to these interactions were influenced by their perception of teachers' behaviors, attitudes, and the type of teaching-learning situations created for them.


Making a distinction between role modeling and purposeful teaching is important for students in clinical training settings. Clinical teachers' awareness of their own manifest professional characterizes, attitudes, and behaviors, could help create better teaching-learning experiences. Moreover, broader systemic reforms are needed to address the prevailing culture of teaching by humiliation and subordination.

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