Clinical Teaching in Education

Assoc Prof Larissa McLean Davies, Dr Nicky Dulfer, Dr Jeana Kriewaldt , Assoc Prof Suzanne Rice, Dr Daniela Acquaro, Dr Christine Redman, Ms Catherine Reid, and Dr Teresa Angelico | View as single page |Feedback/Impact

Conceptualising clinical teaching in education

As the name suggests, clinical teaching in education draws on models of decision-making processes used by medical practitioners, and on models of educating medical interns to support the development of their knowledge and clinical judgement. While there are limits to the degree to which models transfer fully across different fields, medical models have some key features that can usefully inform our understanding of teaching practice and teacher education.  

There are some key aspects that we can learn by adapting and rethinking medical models in the context of education. These are that professionals make decisions by drawing on evidence from a range of sources, relating that evidence to the findings from a contemporary body of research, integrating into this their knowledge of the current situation, seeking further evidence if necessary, and deciding on actions (Burn & Mutton, 2013).  Central to the professional’s thinking is that all decisions must be made with an overriding concern for the best interests of the person whose learning, health or wellbeing is charged to their care.

In education, this translates into a clinical model of teaching that has the following features:

  • The teacher uses evidence about the student, what they have learnt and what they are ready to learn to make decisions about subsequent teaching; 
  • The teacher draws on current research evidence about effective practice in making decisions about how to work with a student or group of students
  • The teacher integrates knowledge about who the student is, including knowledge of their characteristics, circumstances and prior experiences into decision-making about the student and their own teaching;
  • The teacher evaluates their own impact on student learning on a regular basis;
  • The teacher exercises professional judgement involving all these elements; and
  • The student and their learning needs are pivotal to all decision-making about what, when and how to teach (Alter & Coggshall, 2009; Kriewaldt & Turnidge, 2013).

There are also implications for teacher preparation. Clinical models of teacher education, while incorporating the above elements, also draw on medical models of doctor preparation in which universities, current practitioners and those studying to become a practitioner work together to support the application of knowledge and the development of clinical judgement. Such models are additionally characterised by the following:

  • Close partnerships between schools and universities that inform practice in both sites (Grossman, 2010; Conroy et al., 2013);
  • Strong articulation between coursework and professional practice founded on a shared understanding and commitment to clinical reasoning and practice;
  • Professional conversations between novice and mentor that pose questions and probe to make reasoning explicit (Kriewaldt & Turnidge, 2013); and
  • A shared community of practice who are committed to a clinical approach.



Alter, J. & Coggshall, J. (2009). Teaching as a Clinical Practice Profession: Implications for Teacher Education and State Policy. N.Y.: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.

Burn, K., and Mutton, T. (2013) Review of research informed clinical practice’ in initial teacher education. British Education Research Association (BERA).

Conroy, J. Hulme, M. & Menter, I. (2013) ‘Developing a ‘clinical’ model for teacher education’, Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy,39:5, 557-573, DOI: 10.1080/02607476.2013.836339

Grossman, P. (2010). Learning to practice: The design of clinical experience in teacher preparation. Washington DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education & National Education Association.

Kriewaldt, J., & Turnidge, D. (2013). Conceptualising an approach to clinical reasoning in the education profession. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(6). doi: 10.14221/ajte.2013v38n6.9.