Clinical Teaching Roles, Styles, & Behaviors


The role of a clinical teacher is certainly complex, but this guide is designed to break the complexity down to help you prepare, and then in the Styles section, help you find comfortable ways of performing those roles.

The first step is to identify each of the smaller roles that are wrapped up in clinical teaching:

Clinician - the expert, sage, and upholder of professional standards
Teacher - helps students move from inexperienced to knowledgeable, by identifying students’ needs, providing instruction and opportunities for experience, and encouraging them to reflect on what they’ve learned
Supervisor - assesses students’ progress, provide feedback, and evaluate performance


Whether you are aware of them or not, you most likely have preferences in the methods and means you use to teach. This is known as your teaching style. Your style can be based on quite a few things: your personality, the ways in which you were taught, your learning style, and more.  

Regardless of where your style came from, it can be very helpful to become more aware of the preferences that make up your style.  Awareness can help you communicate better with your students, choose learning activities that fit your style of teaching, and help you identify areas of discomfort that may need some attention.

The following links offer self-assessment tools to help you get started.  

Teaching and Learning Styles in the Clinical Setting


A study involving eight programs across the U.S., asked physical therapy students who had recently completed at least one clinical rotation to rate behaviors of their clinical instructors based on what they found most helpful (Jarski, Kulig, & Olson, 1990). The following is the top ten most helpful behaviors of clinical instructors.

1. Takes time for discussion and questions

2. Answers questions clearly

3. Provides constructive feedback

4. Provides students with opportunities to practice both technical and problem solving skills

5. Is willingly accessible to students

6. Discusses practical applications of knowledge and skills

7. Shares his or her knowledge and experience

8. Creates practice opportunities for students

9. Asks questions that stimulate problem solving

10. Deals with students in a friendly, outgoing manner

(p. 176)

Further Reading

Preceptor Expectations and Issues with Nurse Practitioner Clinical Rotations (Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners)


Jarski, R.W., Kulig, K., & Olson, R.E. (1990). Clinical teaching in physical therapy: Student and teacher perceptions. Physical Therapy, 70, 173-178.

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