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Yvonne Steinert, Karen Mann, Angel Centeno, Diana Dolmans, John Spencer, Mark Gelula, David Prideaux, A systematic review of faculty development initiatives designed to improve teaching effectiveness in medical education. Medical Teacher, Vol 28, Number 6, Pages 497 - 526, Sept. 2006 Review by Keith Boyd, MD, Rush University


Yvonne Steinert, Karen Mann, Angel Centeno, Diana Dolmans, John Spencer, Mark Gelula, David Prideaux, A systematic review of faculty development initiatives designed to improve teaching effectiveness in medical education. Medical Teacher, Vol 28, Number 6, Pages 497 - 526, Sept. 2006

Review by Keith Boyd, MD, Rush University

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?
As clerkship directors, many of us are responsible for faculty development. What are the key elements of effective faculty development? Little is known about the various methods we employ and few of these methods have been tested. The relative effectiveness of one method over another has not been measured.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?
The authors, from a diverse group of global academic institutions, reviewed the literature from 1980 to 2002 to determine the impact of faculty development programs, isolating the most effective methods that led to improved teaching. The researchers sought commonalities among the effective programs.

Who was studied?
Faculty at medical schools were studied via a review of published literature. Three databases were reviewed: Medline, ERIC, and EMBASE using key words searches as well as manual searches. Studies focused on faculty development programs designed to improve the teaching effectiveness of basic and clinical scientists were included. The researchers sought studies that measured more than just survey data.

How was the study done?
Using a scoring system, studies were coded by 6 readers, two reading each study.

What did the researchers find?
Faculty satisfaction with programs designed to improve teaching skills is high. Participants value these programs. Faculty report a change in their behavior following programs and that this change is perceived by their students. Participants in programs increased their knowledge of educational principles. The key features of successful programs included: experiential learning, feedback, well-designed interventions, and the use of diverse educational methods.

What were the limitations of the study?
Many of the studies reviewed were flawed. Rigorous research methods were not typically used. Few studies measured changes in behavior. In those that did, changes in behaviors were measured at single points, rarely over time. The complex interactions in the various studies are difficult to compare. Few of the studies were randomized, controlled studies. Few of the studies had firm outcome measures and most did not involve large numbers.

What were the implications of the study?
Faculty development works! The faculty want it, enjoy it, perceive value from it, and recognize change as a result of it. Some methods are more effective than others. The most successful programs deliberately use the theories of adult education, acknowledge the context of the program (e.g.: organizational culture), extend over time, allow cumulative learning, promote independent assessment, and are required of faculty (not voluntary).

(Editorial comment: We all want faculty development to work. This study shows that faculty members do value faculty development programs. The big issue is whether behavior actually changes over time. Stay tuned. Bill Raszka)

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