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

Processes of reasoning

Teachers use a range of specific and broader reasoning processes to decide how to improve student learning, before, during and after teaching episodes and these processes are described in various terms, including problem solving and critical thinking.

Clinical teaching uses clinical reasoning processes. Clinical reasoning describes ‘the analytical processes that professionals use to arrive at a best judged ethical response in a specific practice-based context’ (Kriewaldt & Turnidge, 2013). Teachers integrate knowledge of student characteristics, curriculum frameworks, school and broader policy to frame their clinical reasoning. Clinical reasoning is sometimes used interchangeably with clinical judgment or decision-making, though reasoning describes the process and judgement describes the result.

Clinical teaching use processes of clinical reasoning to identify collect and analyse evidence to determine student’s learning needs to plan and implement teaching interventions. Subsequent clinical reasoning is employed to evaluate the outcomes of teacher action using evidence and to initiate a new cycle of clinical reasoning. Therefore clinical reasoning is situated in practice in which teacher actions are the result of critical deliberations of options and predicted effects. Clinical teaching is learner-focussed and requires a culture of evidence (Cochran-Smith et al., 2009).

Teachers employing clinical reasoning seek and use evidence to guide their practice by asking and integrating these questions into their thinking processes:

  • What does the student already know and what can they do?
  • What does each individual student need to advance their learning?
  • What are effective practices according to the evidence base from research?
  • What evidence of learning can be gathered during and after each teaching intervention?
  • What happened and how can this be interpreted, or what does it show?
  • What does this mean for future interventions?

In this approach teachers view their practice from an inquiring stance (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001) in conjunction with student evidence generated by observing, questioning and formatively and summatively assessing student performance. By giving emphasis to clinical reasoning this drives a forward-thinking orientation to teaching in which each student’s development is brought sharply into focus and this drives powerful planning. It works hand in hand with reflective practice which focuses on learning from teaching episodes.


Evidence base and references

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (2001). Beyond certainty: taking an inquiry stance on practice. In A. Liebermann & L. Miller (Eds.), Teachers caught in the action: Professional development that matters (pp. 45-58). New York: Teachers' College Press.


Cochran-Smith, M., & the Boston College Evidence Team (2009). “Re-culturing” teacher education: Inquiry, evidence, and action. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 458-468. doi: 10.1177/0022487109347206

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.