Aim The aim of the study was to explore the different ways in which doctors have learned to teach and train.
Introduction There is no coherent theory of medical teacher development. Doctors are experts in what they teach; most have had little or no training in how they teach. Research has mostly concentrated on the acquisition and improvement of pedagogical skills by attendance at formal, generally short courses. These may have limited impact.
Methods We carried out semistructured interviews with 10 experienced medical teachers. A review of the literature had suggested areas to explore. Interviews were transcribed and coded and thematic analysis and grounded theory used as the framework for qualitative analysis.
Results Four areas were identified as important in teacher development: acquisition of educational knowledge and skills; modelling and practice of teaching skills; encouragement and motivation of teachers, and constraints on teaching and learning.
Discussion The results suggest a model for teacher development that begins with doctors as learners, learning to learn and watching teachers teach. They then start to teach, acquiring and practising skills, and subsequently move on to reflect on their teaching. They can be encouraged to teach but may also be prevented from teaching.
Conclusions This inductive study proposes a model for medical teacher development that attempts to explain how doctors learn to teach and train. More research is needed to clarify the findings. There are implications for faculty development.