Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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It’s Not Just What You Know: The Non-Cognitive Attributes of Great Clinical Teachers
Dudas RA et al. Pediatrics 2014;134:852.

Reviewed by Rebecca Tenney-Soeiro

What was the study question?
This article focuses on the idea that great clinical teachers recognize that “how” they teach is just as important as “what” they teach, and maybe even more so given the instant information made available through technology.

How was the study done?
The authors draw on literature from medical education, business, sports, and leadership to describe the characteristics of great teachers who are able to get the best out of their students. These include: 1) Encouraging self-motivation 2) Being enthusiastic 3) Being a leader 4) Being a coach 5) Being a student 6) Being prepared when things go wrong.

What were the results?
Students’ learning is driven by a psychological need to excel and clinical teachers adjust their environments to encourage student’s self-motivation to take advantage of that need. Authentic passion, energy, and vocal animation are important traits of enthusiasm. Leaders model the way for their students and are aware of the constant observation of students. They believe in the abilities of the learner and offer autonomy and support. Coaches develop longitudinal relationships that allow for repetitive practice, direct observations, and effective feedback. As a life-long learner, great teachers look things up, welcome feedback, and engage in deliberate practice. They also acknowledge that there are many reasons a student struggles and tailor their teaching to the learners’ needs.

What are the implications of these findings?
Great clinical teachers view their students as future colleagues and feel privileged to have a role in their education. This article is an excellent reminder of the necessity of being an engaging teacher. It’s much more than what you teach, but really is about how you teach.


Editor’s note: This is a great reminder of how successful pediatric educators do their jobs, provided by two excellent role models. I recommend keeping this reference handy, and re-reading it after the inevitable days of annoyance and frustration with teaching medical students. It is not only a reminder of what we do and how we do it, but it reinforces WHY we have chosen this career path in the first place, in order to contribute to the development of the physicians of the future (LL).


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