Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Jane Applegate, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joan Kaywell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patricia Alvarez McHatton, Ph.D.


clinical education, graduate medical education, cooperating teacher, attending physician, in-depth phenomenological interviewing


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe how professional educators make sense of their role in helping novice practitioners make meaning from authentic clinical practice. Simultaneously studying a clinical educator from teacher and graduate medical education, and subsequently setting their stories side by side, speaks to the interest both professions have in learning from the other. Both clinical educators were Board certified in their respective area of practice. In-depth phenomenological interviewing was used as the study’s methodology, and the professional formation construct served as the study’s conceptual framework. Data corroborate findings in the literature that there is a lack of consensus about what the clinical educator role entails. Participants showed alignment with the professional formation conceptual framework and demonstrated that the clinical educator role is multifaceted, complex, and made up of more than discrete functions. Their capacity to support professional formation comes from their ownership of a special mix of cognitive and behavioral processes, professional knowledge, and personal attributes. Given both professions’ interest in and ongoing efforts to improve clinical education, the study can help both continue their work toward understanding the clinical educator role and ensuring that people selected for the role are chosen through thoughtful methods and provided with clinical-educator-specific professional development throughout the professional lifespan.