Refining professional development programs for clinician-educators using their conceptions of teaching and learning

Ms Christine Frith1, Dr. Debra  Virtue1,2, Dr. Sallie  Cowan3, Associate Professor Clare Delany2

1St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, Australia

2The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

3Clifton Hill Physiotherapy Practice , Clifton Hill, Australia



  1. To explore physiotherapy clinician-educators’ conceptions of teaching and adult learning at St Vincent’s Hospital
  2. Explore the impact of educator experience on these conceptions
  3. Identify barriers and enablers to the development of educator expertise

Clinician-educators are responsible for facilitating the learning experiences of students. Their role as an educator is informed by their conceptions and beliefs about what constitutes good clinical teaching.  The impact of educators’ conceptions of their role and how this impacts on their teaching methods in everyday practice is not widely researched.


Two types of data were collected: a survey of clinician-educators about their conceptions of teaching and learning, and two focus groups of clinician-educators to explore their beliefs and practices about teaching and learning and their perceptions of barriers and enablers to developing educator expertise. Focus groups were recorded and transcripts were thematically analyzed by two independent researchers.


Clinician-educators held conceptions that supported the use of active student participation during clinical placements for optimal student learning. Educator experience impacted on identity as a clinician-educator and the teaching processes adopted by clinician-educators.

The most influential factors in the development of educator expertise were access to mentors for novice educators and reflection on past clinical and teaching experiences for experienced educators.

Significance of the findings to Allied health:

This small study supports the literature on the impact of clinician-educator experience and teaching conceptions on teaching approaches and educator expertise development. Accounting for these differences might improve the effectiveness of professional development programs in healthcare settings.