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The role of the clinical teacher

The role of a clinical teacher is complex: complex in terms of combining teaching activities with clinical commitments and complex in terms of contextualising the 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 education 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


One of the main tasks of a clinical teacher is to support students or trainees 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, clinical 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 educational context and the roles of teachers, the Further reading section includes suggestions of some useful publications.

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Further information

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

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