BACKGROUND: There is a dire need to expand the capacity of institutions in Africa to educate health care professionals. Family physicians, as skilled all-rounders at district level, are potentially well placed to contribute to an extended training platform in this context. To play this role, they need to both have an understanding of their specialist role that incorporates teaching and be equipped for their role as trainers of current and future health workers and specialists. A teaching and learning capacity-building module was introduced into a new master’s programme in family medicine at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. We report on the influence of this module on graduates after the first six years.
METHODS: A qualitative study was undertaken, interviewing thirteen graduates of the programme. Thematic analysis of data was done by a team comprising tutors and graduates of the programme and an independent researcher. Ethical clearance was obtained.
RESULTS: The module influenced knowledge, skills and attitudes of respondents. Perceptions and evidence of changes in behaviour, changes in practice beyond the individual respondent and benefits to students and patients were apparent. Factors underlying these changes included the role of context and the role of personal factors. Contextual factors included clinical workload and opportunity pressure i.e., the pressure and responsibility to undertake teaching. Personal factors comprised self-confidence, modified attitudes and perceptions towards the roles of a family physician and towards learning and teaching, in addition to the acquisition of knowledge and skills in teaching and learning. The interaction between opportunity pressure and self-confidence influenced the application of what was learned about teaching.
CONCLUSIONS: A module on teaching and learning influenced graduates’ perceptions of, and self-reported behaviour relating to, teaching as practicing family physicians. This has important implications for educating family physicians in and for Africa and indirectly on expanding capacity to educate health care professionals in Africa.