Making sense of how physician preceptors interact with medical students: discourses of dialogue, good medical practice, and relationship trajectories

J. van der Zwet*, T. Dornan, P.W. Teunissen, L.P.J.W.M. de Jonge, A.J.J.A. Scherpbier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Work based learning and teaching in health care settings are complex and dynamic. Sociocultural theory addresses this complexity by focusing on interaction between learners, teachers, and their environment as learners develop their professional identity. Although social interaction between doctors and students plays a crucial role in this developmental process, socio-cultural research from the perspective of doctors is scarce. We performed discourse analysis on seven general practitioners' audio diaries during a 10-week general practice clerkship to study how they gave shape to their interaction with their students. Examination of 61 diary-entries revealed trajectories of developing relationships. These trajectories were initiated by the way respondents established a point of departure, based on their first impression of the students. It continued through the development of dialogue with their student and through conceptualizations of good medical practice. Such conceptualizations about what was normal in medical and educational practice enabled respondents to recognize qualities in the student and to indirectly determine students' desired learning trajectory. Towards the end, discursive turns in respondents' narratives signaled development within the relationship. This became evident in division of roles and positions in the context of daily practice. Although respondents held power in the relationships, we found that their actions depended strongly on what the students afforded them socially. Our findings address a gap in literature and could further inform theory and practice, for example by finding out how to foster constructive dialogue between doctors and students, or by exploring different discourses among learners and teachers in other contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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