Toward an ecological perspective of resident teaching clinic

C. Scott Smith, Chris Francovich, Magdalena Morris, William Hill, Francine Langlois-Winkle, Randall Rupper, Craig Roth, Stephanie Wheeler, Anthony Vo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Teaching clinic managers struggle to convert performance data into meaningful behavioral change in their trainees, and quality improvement measures in medicine have had modest results. This may be due to several factors including clinical performance being based more on team function than individual action, models of best practice that are over-simplified for real patients with multiple chronic diseases, and local features that influence behavior but are not aligned with core values. Many are looking for a new conceptual structure to guide them. In this paper we briefly review several theories of action from the social and complexity sciences, and synthesize these into a coherent 'ecological perspective'. This perspective focuses on stabilizing features and narrative, which select for behaviors in clinic much like organisms are selected for in an ecosystem. We have found this perspective to be a useful guide for design, measurement, and joint learning in the teaching clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-778
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based in part upon work supported by the Office of Research and Development, Health Services R&D Service, Department of Veterans Affairs (grant #PCC 01-178).


  • Activity theory
  • Communities of practice
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Ecological psychology
  • Interaction
  • Narrative


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