Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-13-2017



Educators who teach in a clinical setting, primarily in healthcare fields, while having knowledge of the subject, having skills in what is taught, and having experience in the field, often have little-to-no training in teaching. This results in instructional practices being based upon intuition and experience. Becoming aware of how qualities and characteristics of clinical instructors affect adult learners’ educational experience through evidence-based research, and using its implications, would help promote more effective instruction and ultimately improve student learning.


A mixed methods study using Grounded Theory and Critical Incidence technique was conducted to study junior student, senior student and instructor perceptions of effective and ineffective qualities and characteristics of clinical instructors that influence learning. A triangulation method of data collection including a survey, a one-on-one interview and focus groups were utilized. Exercising Grounded Theory, in the electronic survey, participants had the opportunity to state and rank any or all qualities and characteristics of clinical instructors that are effective to their learning and that are ineffective to their learning. While many past studies provided participants with categories to rank, this study allowed participants to state any characteristic without parameters. Additionally, using Critical Incidence Technique, all participants had the opportunity, during a one-on-one interview, to describe a personal experience where effective and ineffective learning took place. This revealed additional qualities and characteristics, as well as specific scenarios or teaching practices that were shown to be effective or ineffective. A third method of data collection was focus groups that further validated data revealed in the survey and in the interviews. The qualities and characteristics exposed were coded and combined and organized into categories and themes then tabulated by importance by cohort.


Twenty-four junior dental hygiene students, 22 senior dental hygiene students, and 9 clinical faculty participated in all components of the study. The surveys revealed 322 qualities and characteristics and the interviews revealed 162 qualities and characteristics that were then coded into 26 effective categories of qualities and characteristics and 23 ineffective categories, then further categorized into three major themes for interpretation purposes. Results display and rank in order of importance by each cohort individually and the cohorts combined for both effective and ineffective qualities and characteristics of clinical instructors that influence learning. Variances in the results from the three cohorts were found suggesting a difference in dental hygiene students as they progress from juniors to seniors. Also dissimilarities were found between the student cohorts and instructor cohort in terms of how ranking the importance of qualities and characteristics of clinical instructors that influence learning in an effective and ineffective way. In addition, specific effective teaching methods were uncovered through interviews.


This contribution to the body of knowledge of effective and ineffective clinical instruction, particularly in the dental hygiene field, has implications for dental hygiene curriculum, instructor training and evaluation, and creates a foundation for future study.


clinical teaching, clinical education, dental hygiene

Document Type


Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Arlie Woodrum

Second Committee Member

Allison M. Borden

Third Committee Member

David Bower

Fourth Committee Member

Diana Aboytes