Skip to content. Skip to navigation

Faculty Development

You are here: Home / Assessing Educational Needs / The role of the health professions teacher

The role of the health professions teacher

The role of a teacher involved in any health professions education is complex in terms of combining teaching activities with other (such as clinical or managerial) commitments and in contextualising activities within different programmes, professional requirements and individual learners’ needs.


Harden and Crosby (2000) defined 12 different teacher roles, summarised in the table below.


Roles that require more expertise and understanding about educational principles

Roles that require more content expertise or knowledge


planning or participating in formal examinations of students

curriculum evaluator


Information provider

lecturer in classroom setting

teacher in practical or clinical setting




curriculum planner

course organiser



Role model

on-the-job role model

role model in the teaching setting



Resource developer

production of a study guide

developing resource materials in the form of

computer games, video or print




mentor, personal advisor or tutor

learning facilitator



Whichever profession you come from, one of the main tasks of a clinical teacher is to support learners in their professional development. This includes helping learners to acquire knowledge and clinical skills, and develop appropriate attitudes, i.e. working in the ‘information provider’, ‘role model’ and ‘facilitator’ roles above. It also includes helping students to become self-directed and lifelong learners. To do this effectively, health professions teachers need to use a range of teaching and facilitation skills and techniques, and locate these within a sound knowledge and understanding of the programmes of study in which their learners are engaged. This will help avoid what Grow (1991) calls ‘the mismatch between student and teacher’ and help the shift from a ‘teacher-centred’ to a more ‘learner-centred’ approach. If you are interested in learning more about the broader higher and professional educational context and the roles of teachers, the ‘Further Reading’ section includes suggestions of some useful publications.

Print module to PDF

Save a PDF of this module, so you can print it and read it in your own time.

Email your comments

Let us know what you think about this module or give us your feedback.

Further information

More information about this module, further reading and a complete list of glossary terms.

Learning activities

Read about the recommended learning activities for this module.