Purpose: To (1) provide a detailed account of the nature and scope of faculty development (FD) programs in medical education, (2) assess the quality of FD studies, and (3) identify in what areas and through what means future research can purposefully build on existing knowledge.
Method: The authors searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and ERIC for articles reporting evaluations of FD initiatives published between 1989 and 2010. They applied standard systematic review procedures for sifting abstracts, scrutinizing full texts, and abstracting data, including program characteristics, evaluation methods, and outcomes. They used a modified Kirkpatrick model to guide their data abstraction.
Results: The authors included 22 articles reporting on 21 studies in their review. The most common program characteristics included a series/longitudinal format, intended for individuals, and offered to physicians only. Although the most common aim was to improve teaching effectiveness, several programs had multiple aims, including scholarship and leadership. Program evaluation focused on quantitative approaches. A number of studies employed longitudinal designs and included some follow-up component. Surveys were the most popular data collection method, participants the most common data source, and self-reported behavior changes the most commonly reported outcome.
Conclusions: Although the authors’ findings showed some recent expansion in the scope of the FD literature, they also highlighted areas that require further focus and growth. Future research should employ more rigorous evaluation methods, explore the role of interprofessional teams and communities of practice in the workplace, and address how different organizational and contextual factors shape the success of FD programs.