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Strengthening Teachers’ Professional Identities Through Faculty Development

Steinert, Yvonne PhD; O’Sullivan, Patricia S. EdD; Irby, David M. MDiv, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002695

Although medical schools espouse a commitment to the educational mission, faculty members often struggle to develop and maintain their identities as teachers. Teacher identity is important because it can exert a powerful influence on career choice, academic roles and responsibilities, and professional development opportunities. However, most faculty development initiatives focus on knowledge and skill acquisition rather than the awakening or strengthening of professional identity. The goal of this Perspective is to highlight the importance of faculty members’ professional identities as teachers, explore how faculty development programs and activities can support teachers’ identities, and describe specific strategies that can be used in professional development. These strategies include the embedding of identity and identity formation into existing offerings by asking questions related to identity, incorporating identity in longitudinal programs, building opportunities for community building and networking, promoting reflection, and capitalizing on mentorship. Stand-alone faculty development activities focusing on teachers’ identities can also be helpful, as can a variety of approaches that advocate for organizational change and institutional support. To achieve excellence in teaching and learning, faculty members need to embrace their identities as teachers and be supported in doing so by their institutions and by faculty development.

Y. Steinert is professor of family medicine, director, Centre for Medical Education, and Richard and Sylvia Cruess Chair in Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

P.S. O’Sullivan is professor of medicine and surgery and director of research and development, Center for Faculty Educators, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

D.M. Irby is professor emeritus of medicine and senior research scientist, Center for Faculty Educators, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Previous presentations: Irby D, O’Sullivan P, Steinert Y. Faculty development in the health professions: From skill acquisition to identity formation. Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Medical Education in Europe, Barcelona, Spain, August 29, 2016.

Correspondence should be addressed to Yvonne Steinert, Centre for Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, 1110 Pine Ave. W., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1A3; email:

Copyright © 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges