Do All Roads to Full Participation? Examining Trajectories of Clinical Educators in Graduate Medical Education through Situated Learning Theory

Kevin C. McMains*, Abigail Konopasky, Steven J. Durning, Holly S. Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phenomenon: As new faculty members begin their careers in Graduate Medical Education, each begins a journey of Professional Identity Formation from the periphery of their educational communities. The trajectories traveled vary widely, and full participation in a given educational community is not assured. While some medical school and post-graduate training programs may nurture Professional Identity Formation, there is scant support for faculty. To date, the trajectories that Graduate Medical Education faculty travel, what may derail inbound trajectories, and what tools Graduate Medical Education faculty use to navigate these trajectories have not been explicitly described. We explore these three questions here. Approach: Communities of Practice, a component of Situated Learning Theory, serves as a helpful framework to explore trajectories of educator identity development among Graduate Medical Educators. We used a inductive and deductive approach to Thematic Analysis, with Situated Learning Theory as our interpretive frame. Semi-structured interviews of faculty members of GME programs matriculating into a Health Professions Education Program were conducted, focusing on participants’ lived experiences in medical education and how these experiences shaped their Professional Identity Formation. Findings: Participants noted peripheral, inbound, boundary, and outbound trajectories, but not an insider trajectory. Trajectory derailment was attributed to competing demands, imposter syndrome and gendered marginality. Modes of belonging were critical tools participants used to shape PIF, not only engagement with educator roles but disengagement with other roles; imagination of future roles with the support of mentors; and fluid alignment with multiple mutually reinforcing identities. Participants identified boundary objects like resumes and formal roles that helped them negotiate across Community of Practice boundaries. Insights: Despite a desire for full participation, some clinical educators remain marginal, struggling along a peripheral trajectory. Further research exploring this struggle and potential interventions to strengthen modes of belonging and boundary objects is critical to create equitable access to the inbound trajectory for all of our colleagues, leaving the choice of trajectories up to them.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Professional identity formation
  • boundary objects
  • community of practice
  • faculty
  • graduate medical education
  • landscape of practice
  • modes of belonging
  • situated learning
  • trajectories


Dive into the research topics of 'Do All Roads to Full Participation? Examining Trajectories of Clinical Educators in Graduate Medical Education through Situated Learning Theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this