The Making of an Educator: Professional Identity Formation among Graduate Medical Education Faculty Through Situated Learning Theory

Kevin C. McMains, Steven J. Durning, Candace Norton, Holly S. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction:Professional identity formation (PIF) is a foundational element to professional medical education and training. Given the impact of faculty role models and mentors to student and trainee learning, mapping the landscape of PIF among faculty takes on increased importance. We conducted a scoping review of PIF through the lens of situated learning theory. Our scoping review question was: How is situated learning theory used to understand the process of PIF among graduate medical educators?Methods:The scoping review methodology described by Levac et al. served as the architecture for this review. Medline, Embase, PubMed, ERIC, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Web of Science Core Collection were searched (from inception) using a combination of terms that describe PIF among graduate medical educators.Results:Of the 1434 unique abstracts screened, 129 articles underwent full-text review, with 14 meeting criteria for inclusion and full coding. Significant results organized into three main themes: importance of using common definitions; evolution of theory over time with untapped explanatory power; identity as a dynamic construct.Discussion:The current body of knowledge leaves many gaps. These include lack of common definitions, need to apply ongoing theoretical insights to research, and exploration of professional identity as an evolving construct. As we come to understand PIF among medical faculty more fully, twin benefits accrue: (1) Community of practices can be designed deliberately to encourage full participation of all graduate medical education faculty who desire it, and (2) Faculty can more effectively lead trainees in negotiating the ongoing process of PIF across the landscape of professional identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • community of practice
  • faculty
  • graduate medical education
  • landscape of practice
  • legitimate peripheral participation
  • professional identity formation
  • situated learning


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