Clinical teaching is part of a doctor’s professional life, whether it takes place in surgeries, clinics or in hospitals, with undergraduates, postgraduate trainees or colleagues. Learning to teach well means questioning the effectiveness of some of the old teaching methods, exploring new ideas and trying out new methods in different situations. It means collaborating more closely with colleagues and learners about developing and implementing new approaches to medical education. This paper is the first of an occasional series of articles about the practical aspects of clinical teaching. The articles have the following characteristics: they explore contemporary themes in medical and health care education; they use up-to-date references; they are a quick and easy resource for busy teachers; they explore new ideas about teaching and learning, and they provide a reference list of relevant papers. This article deals with recent ideas about clinical teachers’ knowledge and roles, teaching and organizational strategies, and the measurement of teaching effectiveness.