Sending messages: How faculty influence professionalism teaching and learning

Lorraine Hawick*, Jennifer Cleland, Simon Kitto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Ambiguity in understanding what "professionalism" means, and uncertainty in how best to teach it, remains. This study aimed to explore experiences of senior faculty in their endeavor to develop and include professionalism within a curriculum reform (CR), and illuminate challenges encountered.

METHODS: Using a qualitative case study approach, data were collected from interviews with faculty who were involved in a major CR, plus archived document analysis to provide context, and aid triangulation. Data coding and analysis were inductive, using thematic analysis to generate initial coding scheme; exploring themes in the data.

RESULTS: Seventeen interviews were undertaken and approximately 90 documents were reviewed. Analysis revealed: faculty may unintentionally influence, through mixed messages and hidden meanings, the content and processes of professionalism teaching and learning. We identified several intersecting tensions related to the nature of the existing curriculum, staff knowledge, resources, and lack of clear guidance about the "what and how" to teach professionalism.

CONCLUSION: This study illustrates, hidden messages and contextual factors can enable or inhibit the translation of professionalism into curricula. Those involved in implementing professionalism must be reflective, keep the "hidden curriculum" in the spotlight to consider how presuppositions and prejudices of their cultural milieu may shape curricular outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)987-994
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number9
Early online date16 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to thank the members of Curriculum Reform Steering Group who participated in the study reported here. We also extend our thanks to the School of Medicine where this study was undertaken for supporting LH’s doctoral research program.


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