Professional identity formation and its relationship to case presentations were studied in an optometry school’s onsite clinic.
Eight optometry students and six faculty optometrists were audio-recorded during 31 oral case presentations and the teaching exchanges related to them. Using convenience sampling, interviews were audio-recorded of four of the students and four of the optometrists from the field observations. After transcribing these audio-recordings, the research team members applied a grounded theory method to identify, test, and revise emergent themes. The theme reported herein pertains to communicating standards of practice.
Faculty optometrists demonstrated three ways of communicating standards of practice to optometry students during case presentations: Official Way, Our Way, and My Way. Although there were differences between these standards, the rationale for the disparities was rarely explicitly articulated by the instructors to the students. Without this information, the incongruity among the standards was left to the students to interpret on their own.
The risk created by faculty not articulating the rationale underlying standards of practice was that students misinterpreted the optometrists’ ways as idiosyncratic. Thus, opportunities were missed in the educational setting to assist students in making responsible decisions, locating their position in practice, and shaping their professional identity. Competing responsibilities of patient care and student education left instructors with little time to articulate rationale for standards of practice. Therefore, educators must reflect on innovative ways to bring into relief the logic behind their actions when working with novices.