The development of clinical expertise depends not only on frequent practice opportunities but also on receiving quality feedback, especially regarding difficult aspects of learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the content and conceptual frameworks of preceptor feedback to residents during case presentations.
The authors conducted a qualitative and correlational study in which 25 clinical preceptors from one Canadian medical school's internal medicine and family medicine residency programs responded to six written, case-based vignettes depicting residents seeking help regarding a variety of educational issues. Preceptors were asked probing follow-up questions about their responses. The authors analyzed response content, conceptual frameworks used in formulating responses, and the correlation between the two.
Overall, the preceptors generated 806 responses, representing 96 distinct topics. The five topics mentioned most frequently related to reading suggestions, leading diagnosis, contrasting clinical findings, patient follow-up, and resident's concerns/feelings about the case. Seventy-three percent of the topics were specific to one or two vignettes. The preceptors used 18 distinct conceptual frameworks in formulating responses (e.g., analytical versus nonanalytical reasoning, problem representation, therapeutic alliance, patient-centered approach). Use of conceptual frameworks was positively associated with greater diversity of responses (r = 0.43, P = .03).
The vignettes stimulated rich and extensive lists of topics and conceptual frameworks. These findings represent but one step in the exploration of the content and conceptual frameworks of preceptor feedback and of the interrelatedness of feedback content and process, which have important implications for teaching and faculty development.