From critic to inspirer: four profiles reveal the belief system and commitment to educational mission of medical academics

Marleen W. Ottenhoff-de Jonge*, Roeland M. van der Rijst, Neil Gesundheit, Lianne N. van Staveren, Willem J. J. Assendelft, Friedo W. Dekker, Albert J. J. A. Scherpbier, Anneke W. M. Kramer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The educational beliefs of medical academics influence how they act in class and thus influence student learning. One component of these are beliefs academics hold about the qualities of teachers themselves. These teacher qualities range from behaviours and competencies to more personal attributes such as the teacher's identity and mission. However, it is unclear what medical academics believe to be key teacher qualities. Therefore, this study explored the variety of medical academics' beliefs about 'teacher qualities', aiming to identify and characterise profiles of academics with similar beliefs.

Methods: We interviewed 26 expert academics from two medical schools to explore their beliefs about teacher qualities. A concentric onion-model focusing on teacher qualities was used to analyse and categorise the data deductively. Within each theme we developed subthemes inductively. To gain insight into the variety of beliefs we then clustered the participants into teacher profiles according to the themes. To better understand each of the profiles we carried out a quantitative study of the differences between profiles regarding subthemes, contextual and personal factors, and analysed statistical significance using Fisher's exact- and Student's t-tests for categorical and continuous data, respectively.

Results: Four profiles of medical academics were identified, corresponding to the most central theme that each participant had reflected on: the 'Inspirer', 'Role-model', 'Practitioner', and 'Critic'. The focus of the profiles varied from external constraining factors within the 'Critic' profile to affective personal qualities within the 'Role-model' and 'Inspirer' profiles. The profiles could be regarded as hierarchically ordered by inclusiveness. Educational institute was the only significant factor related to the profiles.

Conclusions: Besides the relevance of affective teacher qualities, the 'Inspirer' profile demonstrates the importance of developing a clear mission as a teaching academic, centred around student learning and professional development. In our view, academics who inspire their students continue to be inspired themselves.

The practical implications are described for faculty development programmes, and for the potential value of using these profiles within medical schools. In the discourse on educational beliefs, the authors argue that more attention should be paid to affective qualities, in particular to explicating the educational mission of academics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number268
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2019


  • Conceptions of teaching and learning
  • Faculty development
  • Medical education
  • Teacher attributes
  • Teacher identity
  • Teacher mission
  • Teacher profiles
  • Teacher qualities
  • Teaching beliefs


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