ProblemTraining the next generation of health professionals requires leaders, innovators, and scholars in education. Although many medical schools and residencies offer education electives or tracks focused on developing teaching skills, these programs often omit educational innovation, scholarship, and leadership and are narrowly targeted to one level of learner.
InterventionThe University of California San Francisco created the Health Professions Education Pathway for medical students, residents, and fellows as well as learners from other health professional schools. The Pathway applies the theoretical framework of communities of practice in its curricular design to promote learner identity formation as future health professions educators. It employs the strategies of engagement, imagination, and alignment for identity formation.
ContextThrough course requirements, learners engage and work with members of the educator community of practice to develop the knowledge and skills required to participate in the community. Pathway instructors are faculty members who model a breadth of educator careers to help learners imagine personal trajectories. Last, learners complete mentored education projects, adopting scholarly methods and ethics to align with the broader educator community of practice.
OutcomeFrom 2009 to 2014, 117 learners participated in the Pathway. Program evaluations, graduate surveys, and web-based searches revealed positive impacts on learner career development. Learners gained knowledge and skills for continued engagement with the educator community of practice, confirmed their career aspirations (imagination), joined an educator-in-training community (engagement/imagination), and disseminated via scholarly meetings and peer-reviewed publications (alignment).
Lessons learnedLearners identified engagement with the learner community as the most powerful aspect of the Pathway; it provided peer support for imagining and navigating the development of their dual identities in the clinician and educator communities of practice. Also important for learner success was alignment of their projects with the goals of the local educator community of practice. Our community of practice approach to educator career development has shown promising early outcomes by nurturing learners' passion for teaching; expanding their interest in educational leadership, innovation, and scholarship; and focusing on their identity formation as future educators.