Learning Behind the Scenes: Perceptions and Observations of Role Modeling in Pediatric Residents' Continuity Experience

Dorene Balmer, Janet R. Serwint, Sheryl Burt Ruzek, Stephen Ludwig, Angelo P. Giardino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: Little is known about what residents learn from "everyday" physician role models, who, in the course of their ordinary work, serve as real-life examples of residents' future roles. The purpose of this research was to analyze what and how pediatric residents learn through role modeling during their continuity experience. Design: We conducted a case study of 10 third-year pediatric residents and their 10 continuity clinic preceptors (CCP) in a community-based continuity clinic. Data were derived from 5 months (100 hours) of direct observation in clinic; semistructured interviews with residents before and after observation; and semistructured interviews with CCPs after resident data were collected. Interview transcripts and notes from observation were inductively coded and thematically analyzed. Results: From the residents' perspective, role modeling was an implicit and intentional learning strategy that was linked to routine clinical practice in continuity clinic. Residents learned, through modeling their CCPs, "how to talk" and "how to think things through." Residents did not directly report modeling professional behavior. For residents, learning through modeling was not contingent on CCPs' awareness of being a role model. Conclusions: Role modeling is a nuanced, deliberate learning strategy that provides pediatric residents with templates for interpersonal communication and clinical decision making that have both immediate and long-term relevance. Understanding residents' perspective on role modeling, and how it aligns with their CCPs' perspective, presents opportunities for improving residents' learning experiences, faculty development, and future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-181
Number of pages6
JournalAmbulatory Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007


  • continuity experience
  • graduate medical education
  • learning theory
  • preceptor as role model
  • residency training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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