Enriching clinical communication teaching
: a qualitative study of a curriculum field in UK medical schools

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study investigates how does, and how could, current pedagogical practice embody the complexity of clinical communication in undergraduate medial education. Employing a qualitative methodology, ten lead clinical communication teachers from different UK medical schools were interviewed. This enabled exploration of how they construct the nature of the subject and their views on how it contributes to the formation of future doctors. Further insights were gained into which elements of clinical communication predominate teaching in undergraduate curricula, how these relate to assessment practices and how supporting models or theoretic approaches are used to inform teaching of the subject. Additional data was provided from a scoping survey conducted across all UK medical schools, yielding 22 responses.
Thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews, along with simple numeric data from the survey yielded a range of insights grouped under the following categories: The nature and scope of clinical communication as a subject; the aims of clinical communication teaching and attributes of the graduating doctor; pedagogic practice – teaching and assessment. A range of analytical perspectives were applied to the findings which illuminate a number of tensions in the field. These centre on the differing emphases placed on clinical communication as a) primarily instrumental, with a focus on skills and tasks or b) as central to the development of personal and professional attributes. Issues concerning the degree of integration with other strands of learning and the ways in which assessment and teaching practices promote or hinder a more rounded conceptualisation of the subject are also considered, along with the implications for future practice. A schematic framework which may be used as a model for the enrichment of clinical communication pedagogy has been formulated. This sets out a theoretic and values-based vision of the subject which illustrates its scope beyond an instrumental role in healthcare.
Date of Award1 May 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnwar Tlili (Supervisor), Peter Duncan (Supervisor) & Alan Cribb (Supervisor)

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