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Developing Educational Leaders: The Teaching Scholars Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

Muller, Jessica H. PhD; Irby, David M. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.ACM.0000242588.35354.db
Medical Education Fellowships

A Teaching Scholars Program (TSP) was established in 1998 in the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine with the mission of building knowledgeable and skilled educational leaders, teachers, and scholars. Conducted through the Office of Medical Education (OME), the TSP is a 10-month program that accepts 12 scholars per year. Financial support for the program, including salary support for co-directors and staff, is provided by the OME. Scholars’ departments are required to provide release time for one afternoon per week for 10 months.

The TSP provides participants with an intensive weekly seminar series, collaborative learning experiences, mentored projects, and a network of educational colleagues. The weekly seminars use an interactive format to address topics within seven targeted areas: (1) learning theory; (2) teaching methods; (3) curriculum development/evaluation; (4) assessment of learning; (5) leadership and organizational change; (6) career development; and (7) educational research.

Since its inception, 76 scholars have graduated from or are currently enrolled in the TSP. The majority are clinicians at assistant professor rank, although four basic scientists, two medical students, and three OME staff members have also participated in the program. The TSP is highly valued by participants, and preliminary evaluation data suggest that the program has resulted in an increase in educational research, scholarly activities, and the number of skilled and knowledgeable faculty with major leadership roles in medical education at UCSF. Challenges facing the TSP include scholar release time, mentoring time, and follow-up contact to encourage TSP graduates’ postgraduation productivity, continuing educational development, and support.

Dr. Muller is professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Dr. Irby is vice dean for education and professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Muller, Box 0900, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0900; telephone: (415) 476-6051; e-mail: (

In 1998, a Teaching Scholars Program (TSP) was established at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine with the mission of creating knowledgeable and skilled educational leaders, teachers, and scholars. This 10-month program provides scholars with an intensive weekly seminar series, collaborative learning experiences, mentored projects, and a network of educational colleagues.

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Background: Improving UCSF’s Educational Mission

A 1996 site visit by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education survey team resulted in a report that criticized the UCSF medical school curriculum and its lack of educational leadership and curricular oversight. In response to these criticisms, the dean of the School of Medicine sought to make the educational mission equal in quality to the research and patient care missions of the school. In 1997, he recruited a new vice dean for education to pursue this goal. Planning for curriculum reform commenced in 1998 and resulted in a transformation that began in 2000.

Integral to the curriculum redesign effort was the creation of an Office of Medical Education (OME) by the vice dean for education. The OME was formed to support UCSF’s educational enterprise across the continuum of medical education, develop the school’s electronic curriculum and educational technology, strengthen the school’s educational research efforts, and expand its faculty development program. The OME launched the TSP and a school-wide faculty development workshop series in 1998. Other OME educational initiatives have included the development of educational research and evaluation resources, an Office of Educational Technology, a Clinical Skills Center, Fellowships in Medical Education Research, and a Medical Education Fellowship for students between their third and fourth years.

In addition to the TSP, other faculty development activities have emerged at UCSF. The OME sponsors a general faculty development workshop series throughout the year. Most of these half-day instructional improvement workshops are offered on Tuesday afternoons to allow the scholars to attend. Through the OME we also run faculty development sessions focusing on how to lead discussions effectively for small-group leaders who teach in the first two years of the curriculum. The Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Department of Internal Medicine have had year-long faculty development fellowship programs as well. We also send a cohort of faculty to the Harvard/Macy educational leaders courses annually.

The scholarship of teaching and learning is supported by an educational researcher in the OME who works one-on-one with faculty members on their research and grant writing. There is also a weekly medical education journal club and works-in-progress series that prior, and occasionally current, scholars participate in, along with other faculty with an interest in educational research. Complementing all of these educational programs is the Haile T. Debas Academy of Medical Educators (AME), which was established at UCSF in 2001. The AME also provides faculty development opportunities, many of which are co-sponsored with the OME.

For a select few faculty members who wish to become independent investigators in medical education research, we offer a two-year, 20% funded and mentored Fellowship in Medical Education Research. This is jointly sponsored by the OME and the AME.

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The TSP Administration

The TSP is conducted through the OME in the Office of the Vice Dean for Education. The co-directors share the development and teaching of the curriculum, while other faculty, staff, and consultants conduct specific sessions on such topics as literature searches, educational technology, educational research, and evaluation. Financial support for the program, including salary support for the co-directors and staff, is provided by the OME. The approximate cost of the program is $50,000 a year. The TSP does not offer stipends to its scholars; however, the scholars’ departments are required to release them from service responsibilities every Tuesday afternoon for 10 months as a prerequisite for admission to the program.

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The Teaching Scholars

The TSP targets UCSF School of Medicine faculty of any rank who are interested in enhancing their teaching and leadership skills as well as their educational scholarship. Applications are solicited from faculty at all UCSF primary teaching hospitals and programs, including the San Francisco Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, UCSF Medical Center, UCSF Children’s Hospital, and the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. Applicants must submit an application form, curriculum vitae (CV), and goal statement, as well as a letter of support from their department chair or residency program director, who must guarantee release time for scholars on Tuesday afternoons for the duration of the program. The selection process is competitive. The program directors make the selection based upon applicants’ potential to become educational leaders (or current demonstration of educational leadership), ability to devote adequate time to the TSP in relation to their other responsibilities, and nature of their proposed goals and projects. In cases where multiple applications come from one department, the directors request additional information from the department chair to help make the decision.

From 1998 through 2006, 76 scholars graduated from or are currently enrolled in the program. Table 1 lists demographic characteristics of current and graduated TSP scholars. Five individuals who were admitted did not complete the program because of illness, family obligations, or departure from the university. The number of individuals participating in the program each year has increased over time, from six in the first year to 12 in the last three years. The majority are at the assistant professor rank when they take part in the program. While most participants are clinicians, we have had four from the basic sciences, two medical students participating in the Medical Education Fellowship between their third and fourth years, and three staff members from the OME. Regardless of their backgrounds, all participants are expected to meet the same level of performance, and we have found that the nonclinicians’ perspectives and knowledge contribute greatly to group discussions.

Table 1

Table 1

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The TSP Curriculum

The overall goal of the TSP is to produce educational leaders for UCSF. The TSP provides scholars with the knowledge and skills needed to become educational leaders by offering them learning experiences in seven targeted areas: (1) learning theory; (2) teaching methods; (3) curriculum development and evaluation; (4) assessment of learning; (5) leadership and organizational change; (6) career development; and (7) educational research. The specific learning objectives are outlined in List 1.

List 1 UCSF Teaching Scholars Program Learning Objectives

List 1 UCSF Teaching Scholars Program Learning Objectives

To complete the program successfully, scholars are expected to attend a weekly three-hour seminar, complete session-specific reading assignments and exercises before the seminar, assume responsibility for leading some of the discussions, and complete a scholarly project. They are also encouraged to attend the school-wide faculty development workshop series sponsored by the OME, as well as to participate in a TSP mentoring program.

The weekly seminars use an interactive discussion-based format to address topics within the seven target areas over the course of the year. List 2 highlights the curricular components of the TSP. We begin the year with a discussion of different learning theories and how they relate to clinical practice. This theme is picked up later in the year when we discuss technology and learning, and the literature on physician and teacher expertise in medicine. Interspersed throughout the year are sessions on teaching skills. These include large and small group teaching methods, one-on-one clinical teaching skills, and team learning. We begin our examination of curriculum development and evaluation by discussing different curriculum models. Using the book, Curriculum Development for Medical Education: A Six-Step Approach by Kern et al.,1 we engage the scholars in the process of curricular design, implementation, and evaluation by asking them to bring to the group their own curricular projects as “cases” to work on in small groups. To address issues of assessment, we have sessions on reliability and validity, and performance and attitude assessments, as well as course, teacher, peer, and self-assessment.

List 2 Curricular Components of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Teaching Scholars Program, 1998–2006

List 2 Curricular Components of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine Teaching Scholars Program, 1998–2006

The focus of the leadership and organizational change module focuses on identifying different leadership styles, applying leadership skills, understanding how to bring about organizational change, and developing teams and coalitions. We define leadership as the ability to achieve remarkable results through others, and we expect every member of the group to exercise leadership in some arena. Career development encompasses sessions on career planning and academic advancement, mentoring, CV review, and preparation of the Educator’s Portfolio. Finally, we provide a series of seminars during the year on various aspects of educational research, including quantitative and qualitative research methods, defining research questions, searching the literature, and survey development.

A typical TSP session begins with a brief introduction to the topic of focus by one of the instructors. Scholars may then be asked to reflect on and/or write about a personal experience or connection with the topic. Individual scholars then take turns leading the seminar discussion, based on the particular articles they had been assigned to read prior to the seminar. Interspersed throughout the discussion are interactive activities, such as in-class writing assignments, break-out groups, or team learning activities. For example, in one of the sessions on learning theories, the scholars begin by identifying a powerful and purposive learning experience and describe what made it effective. In the ensuing discussion, scholars make connections from these experiences to theories of learning. Scholars then write their own definitions of learning, which they exchange with others in the group. Later in the session, we use team learning to stimulate deeper understanding of learning theory and instructional practices through the use of an individual and group readiness assessment test and discussion. Appendix 1 is a sample lesson plan for the session on “Theories of Learning.”

A major goal of the TSP is the completion, presentation, and possible publication of a scholarly project. Following Boyer’s expanded definition of scholarship, these projects can reflect the scholarship of discovery, integration, application, and/or teaching.2,3 While the majority of scholarly projects completed by the scholars have focused on curriculum development or evaluation, they have also included educational research, the creation of instructional materials, and the development of assessment methods. We encourage scholars to meet the three key criteria of scholarship: the product should be made public, peer reviewed, and accessible for others to build upon.2 Scholars are required to present their projects to the other scholars at the end of the year, and are strongly encouraged to present to the wider community at an Education Day symposium sponsored by the UCSF AME, and/or at regional (eg, Western Group on Educational Affairs) and national (eg, Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Society of General Internal Medicine, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, Association of Surgical Educators) meetings. A few examples of scholarly projects that have been presented locally and nationally include: “Teaching Residents to Teach: Developing a Curriculum to Improve Resident Teaching Skills”; “Between the Blackboard and the Bedside: An Examination of the Hidden Curriculum in End-of-Life Care”; and “An Interactive Browser-based Program that Teaches the Infant Neurological Exam.”

As much as possible, the co-directors of the program mentor the scholars and assist them with their projects. Recently we have expanded the mentoring program by connecting TSP alumni with current scholars. Scholars are matched according to interests and experience. Mentoring may be limited to the scholar’s scholarly project or it may include broader career mentoring.

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The Benefits of the TSP

Scholars have been very satisfied with the TSP, as is evident in their overall ratings of the program, which have ranged from 4.2 to 4.9 (on a 5-point scale where 5 = excellent) over the past seven years. According to their evaluation comments, they value most highly their enhanced knowledge and teaching skills, increased understanding of curriculum and academic program development, strengthened academic leadership skills and career development, and collegiality of a network of peers interested in medical education and educational research. For example, when asked which aspects of the TSP they found most valuable, scholars have written:

Finding a group of scholars and legitimizing what I do—I feel like I am more comfortable stating I am a medical educator because the program was stimulating and invigorating to me—making me realize I really enjoy medical education and maybe I can make a career at least in part as a medical educator.

New ways of thinking about teaching and learning—often grounded in “common sense” but now I know this stuff is validated—it makes me more comfortable about what we do, and inspires me to do more.

Opportunity to meet university leadership and gain a better understanding of the structure of the university.

The quality of the reading materials have really opened vistas re: educational theory and how to approach learning. Although at times the literature was challenging, I think this was a very important part of the curriculum.

A place to breathe and take time to learn for myself.

The school benefits from the TSP by having an expanding cadre of highly skilled and knowledgeable educational leaders who now have major leadership roles in medical education. Examples of such roles include director of the Clinical Skills Center, director of the Simulation Center, director of the Office of Educational Technology, chair of the curriculum committee and several subcommittees, course directors, residency program directors, continuing medical education directors, and education committee members. In most instances, scholars were appointed to these leadership positions after completion of the TSP program.

In addition, a number of scholars, in collaboration with the AME, have become strong advocates for educational improvement and have been actively involved in the curricular innovations in the school.

The School of Medicine has also been able to recruit highly talented educators to UCSF because of the TSP. This has included recruitment of clerkship directors and fellows who wanted to make medical education research their area of career development. In both instances, the TSP has been a strong inducement for prospective applicants at UCSF. At the same time, the school benefits from the program through increased visibility for UCSF nationally. Through scholarly presentations and publications, UCSF has become known for its innovation and leadership in medical education. This was not true prior to the program’s inception in 1998.

A study is currently underway to determine the impact of the TSP on different types of scholarly activities. A survey was conducted with alumni of the program to assess their perceived self-efficacy in education-related scholarly activities. CV analysis was used to compare productivity before and after the program in the areas of education-related publications, awards, and leadership. Although we have only preliminary results at this point, the data strongly suggest that the TSP produced significant increases in research and leadership activities.

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The Challenges Facing the TSP

Release time has always been a struggle for the scholars. Some receive true release time, but most merely have their clinical responsibilities shifted from Tuesday afternoons so they can attend the seminar. Unfortunately, this adds to the time pressures scholars already feel, and curtails the amount of time they can spend on their scholarly projects. Better time protection for participation in the program would lessen scholar frustration and strengthen their active engagement in the program.

Mentoring has been the rate-limiting factor in the size of the program. Although the co-directors devote time to mentoring scholars and their projects, their time constraints do not allow them to mentor the full cohort of scholars. We are hoping that engaging TSP graduates in the mentoring program will help to alleviate this quandary.

Another challenge we face is how to bring TSP graduates together. Creating a follow-up program to bring graduates together would encourage postgraduation productivity and continuing educational development as well as support. A newly initiated, weekly medical education journal club/works-in-progress seminar appears to be addressing some of this need.

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A Successful Transformation

The TSP offers a longitudinal educational program for faculty members who share a passion for teaching. The success of the program is attributable, in part, to the excellent quality of the scholars, a strong academic and mentoring program, plus department and school support. The school and the departments are well served by the ongoing leadership these faculty members play in the educational enterprise. The scholars bring honor to the school and to their departments through their distinguished teaching, publications, and service both locally and nationally. The TSP produces a cadre of exceptional teachers whose creativity, innovations, and scholarship have transformed the culture of education at UCSF.

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1. Kern DE, Thomas PA, Howard DM, Bass EB. Curriculum Development for Medical Education. A Six-Step Approach. Baltimore Md: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1998.
2. Boyer EL. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; 1990.
3. Glassick GE. Boyer’s expanded definitions of scholarship, the standards for assessing scholarship, and the elusiveness of the scholarship of teaching. Acad Med. 2000;75:877–880.
Appendix 1

Appendix 1

© 2006 Association of American Medical Colleges