Advancing the science of health professions education through a shared understanding of terminology: a content analysis of terms for “faculty”

Pim W. Teunissen*, Anique Atherley, Jennifer J. Cleland, Eric Holmboe, Wendy C.Y. Hu, Steven J. Durning, Hiroshi Nishigori, Dujeepa D. Samarasekera, Lambert Schuwirth, Susan van Schalkwyk, Lauren A. Maggio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Health professions educators risk misunderstandings where terms and concepts are not clearly defined, hampering the field’s progress. This risk is especially pronounced with ambiguity in describing roles. This study explores the variety of terms used by researchers and educators to describe “faculty”, with the aim to facilitate definitional clarity, and create a shared terminology and approach to describing this term. Methods: The authors analyzed journal article abstracts to identify the specific words and phrases used to describe individuals or groups of people referred to as faculty. To identify abstracts, PubMed articles indexed with the Medical Subject Heading “faculty” published between 2007 and 2017 were retrieved. Authors iteratively extracted data and used content analysis to identify patterns and themes. Results: A total of 5,436 citations were retrieved, of which 3,354 were deemed eligible. Based on a sample of 594 abstracts (17.7%), we found 279 unique terms. The most commonly used terms accounted for approximately one-third of the sample and included faculty or faculty member/s (n = 252; 26.4%); teacher/s (n = 59; 6.2%) and medical educator/s (n = 26; 2.7%) were also well represented. Content analysis highlighted that the different descriptors authors used referred to four role types: healthcare (e.g., doctor, physician), education (e.g., educator, teacher), academia (e.g., professor), and/or relationship to the learner (e.g., mentor). Discussion: Faculty are described using a wide variety of terms, which can be linked to four role descriptions. The authors propose a template for researchers and educators who want to refer to faculty in their papers. This is important to advance the field and increase readers’ assessment of transferability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Content analysis
  • Faculty terminology
  • Literature study


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