Do personality differences between teachers and learners impact students' evaluations of a surgery clerkship?

Mary Alice Bell, Paula S. Wales, Laura J. Torbeck, John M. Kunzer, Virginia C. Thurston, James J. Brokaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Historically, the surgery clerkship at the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) has received poor evaluations from medical students, and the authors of this article hypothesized that this negative feedback may reflect, at least in part, inherent differences in the personality styles of the learners compared with those of the surgery teachers (faculty and residents). Differences between teachers and learners could impede effective communication and impact adversely students' perception of, and satisfaction with, the learning environment. The objective of this study was to compare the inherent personality styles of surgery teachers and medical students. Design: Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to assess personality styles, we administered the instrument to 154 teachers in the surgery department and to 1395 medical students. Aggregate MBTI data for teachers and learners were analyzed based on four dichotomous scales. Chi square tests of independence were performed to examine the relationship between teachers and learners on the MBTI scales. Setting: The study was undertaken at IUSM, which has been engaged in a process of cultural change for over 10 years, in part to ensure that both the formal curriculum and the learning environment support the development of self-awareness and professionalism among our graduates. Results: We found that teachers were similar to learners on the Introversion/Extraversion scale and dissimilar from learners on the three remaining scales: Sensing/Intuition scale (p < 0.008), Thinking/Feeling scale (p < 0.000), and the Judging/Perceiving scale (p < 0.022). Conclusions: These results suggest that differences in personality styles may affect the teacherlearner interaction during the surgery clerkship and may influence negatively students' perception of the learning environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-193
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2011


  • clerkship evaluations
  • learning environment
  • medical student evaluations
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • personality style
  • surgery clerkship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education

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