Putting It on the Table: Towards Better Cultivating Medical
A. Gamble Blakey
International Association of Medical Science Educators 2018
Problem Medical teachers, like many others in higher education, need to help some students cultivate values essential to good
practice. However, there is a paucity of evidence-based practical advice about how to exactly do this. While several educational
methods are widely accepted as generally useful for such a purpose, specific pedagogical guidance is lacking. Teachers still need
to know how to effectively develop values in the classroom.
Research Aim As part of an existing curricula with teaching methods already understood to be useful, we pursued the develop-
ment of specific classroom strategies to more effectively cultivate medical students’ values.
Methods We undertook a year-long action research project with six experienced medical teachers. Data included group discus-
sion meetings, semi-structured interviews, observations and interpersonal process recall of each teacher’s classroom practice.
Results Participant teachers developed an understanding of values as highly sensitive, in the sense of their relation to an
individual’s sense of self. This understanding explained, in part, the challenges teacher participants had experienced in teaching
values. From this understanding, participants developed a specific discourse to help one another understand and describe
effective values teaching; one of cultivation, placing in sight and of moving a student from where they started to another
place. A specific two-part pedagogy was then developed from this discourse: to avoid engendering negative emotion in the
student and to implicitly value or ‘believe in’ the student as a person.
Conclusions Results have implications for teacher pedagogy and development, and in nominating who might best teach values.
Further research should focus on the finer points of language and developing a more specific understanding of how teacher
‘caring’ might help cultivate values.
Keywords Va lues
Small group work
In higher education, a wide-ranging, explicit focus on cultivating
student values has emerged . Higher education is no longer
solely about developing students’ knowledge, skill or even think-
ing, but a venture in which cultivating student values also has ‘a
rightful place’ . Despite difficulties developing a universal
way to conceptualise such an education, the education sector
displays an increasing recognition and support for values culti-
vation . In the words of Harland and Pickering , the current
situation is one in which:
…it might be reasonable to expect that one of the out-
comes of higher education is that a highly educated per-
son will have a highly educated set of values.
In line with this view, cultivating medical students’ values
has also become recognised as a matter of best practice [3–5].
In essence, medical teachers now aim for students to become
what Paterson  might call ‘Good Doctors’ who are techni-
cally competent and also possess the values necessary for
excellent practice. For example, doctors who are skilful at
clinical examination and acting with respect such that the
client feels cared for and fully understood.
Those who work with students in clinical practice also
express support for cultivating students’ values [4, 5], evi-
dence of which is found within definitions of, and ideas about
developing students’ professionalism . Like Paterson ,
several such authors argue for medical education to have two
* A. Gamble Blakey
Otago Medical School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Medical Science Educator