How is Practice Learnt?
: The Professional Development of Medical Educators undertaking an MA Education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis considers the experience of a group of medical educators undertaking an MA Education programme. At its heart is the notion that actions and thinking are determined by unacknowledged ideas and assumptions and the premise that if these can be unearthed and understood they can be examined, considered, changed and developed.
Most medical educators are medical practitioners who, in addition to their role as clinicians, have become educators. They are in a unique position to influence the practice of their colleagues and so affect the quality of medical care that patients receive. Currently medical education is underpinned by an unacknowledged technical-rational approach which mistakes the nature of professional practice and the nature of education. Medical education is being pursued as a branch of medical practice, rather than as a branch of education.
The MA Education (medical educators) programme at the University of Winchester embodies a very different approach to the one prevailing in medical practice and education. It is an approach that is acknowledged and critiqued and which recognises the nature of professional practice and education.
Using a methodology derived from educational research, the response of medical educators to the MA programme is investigated through data collected from eleven semi-structured interviews. The response of the interviewees to the programme is analysed and its consequences and implications explored. Although the programme’s approach is initially surprising and uncomfortable for medical educators they recognise their practice within it and develop professionally, primarily as educators but also as clinicians.
The findings show that medical educators and medical education need to acknowledge and shed the prevalent technical-rational approach and embrace an approach which embodies an appreciation of the nature of professional practice and of education and of how practice is learnt. The MA programme experienced by the medical educators in this study is one example of how this can be achieved.
The contribution of this thesis is to analyse one way in which medical educators can shed their technical-rational approach to professional practice and how and why they develop professionally through so doing. It emphasises the pivotal role of medical educators within medical practice and draws attention to the importance of the question of how practice is learnt.
Date of Award23 Nov 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorCharly Ryan (Supervisor) & Colin Coles (Supervisor)

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