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Master Teacher Program

Mission Statement

To develop and support a group of educators that will inspire students to discover, to think, to achieve and to care.


The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary has traditionally relied on practicing clinicians to provide the bulk of the teaching in the Undergraduate curriculum. However, the rapidly increasing population of southern Alberta has put increasing strain on the already busy clinical workload of these physicians. In addition, to address the current and projected physician shortage, the medical school class size has increased by over 100% in the last 8 years. This in turn has led to an even greater need for teachers in the Undergraduate curriculum.

The Office of Undergraduate Medical Education has made it a priority to address this issue, and in 2007 moved forward with the Master Teacher Program Initiative. This has allowed clinician educators who have a proven track record for excellence in teaching to have protected time to teach within the Undergraduate Curriculum.

Description of program:

Master Teachers are physicians who have a demonstrated track record of providing excellence in education. After receiving further training in educational techniques through the Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program, Master Teachers are subsequently integrated into their teaching roles within the undergraduate medical curriculum. There they take on a wide variety of teaching roles ranging from didactic sessions to bedside encounters with patients. As of July 2012, 48 Master Teachers have been hired.

Each Master Teacher appointment is associated with a 0.2 FTE position with the University of Calgary, and as such requires the contribution of approximately one day (8 hours) per week to educational activities. Over the course of one year, 340 hours must be completed. A great degree of flexibility is permitted in order to facilitate ongoing clinical responsibilities. For example, the eight hours can be divided over the course of a week or extra hours can be done one week if clinical commitments prevent teaching the following week.

Initially, each Master Teacher can select from the following educational activities to accumulate the required hours in a year:

  1. Small group teaching within each of the systems-based courses in the first two years of the curriculum, as well as clerkship course 8.
  2. Preparation for each of the small group sessions in the first 2 preclinical years, including small groups in Courses 1-7, Global Health, Healthy Populations and Advanced Evidence Based Medicine. Two hours of preparation time will be allotted if it is the first time that the Master Teacher has taught that particular small group topic; otherwise, one hour of preparation time will be allotted.
  3. Medical skills sessions (Communication skills, physical exam skills, procedural skills, ethics, physicianship, integrative). Each session is 2 hours in length. Preparation time for these sessions will not be counted towards the yearly totals.
  4. Clinical correlation sessions for the systems-based courses.
  5. Participation in the Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program: Please see below under the heading “Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program” for more details. Each Master Teacher will be expected to complete the requirements for the certificate within the first year of their hiring. The 80 hours required for the certificate can be counted as part of the yearly totals. In subsequent years, it is expected that the Master Teacher will become part of the faculty teaching the certificate program.
  6. Faculty Development sessions: The Office of Faculty Development organizes sessions to improve the teaching skills of physicians throughout the Calgary. Master Teachers may be asked to help facilitate one or more of these sessions during the year. Hours involved in these sessions will be counted towards yearly totals.
  7. Journal club and Case Studies sessions organized by the Director of the Master Teacher Program
  8. Rural Integrated Clerkship distance learning educational sessions

As the number of Master Teachers increases with time, further options for activities that can be used to accrue hours for the yearly total may include:

  1. Examination review and standard setting for each of the formative and summative exams throughout the three year curriculum.
  2. Remediation of students in the clinical setting.
  3. Creating and reviewing small group cases.
  4. Bedside teaching opportunities.
  5. Participation in research endeavors involving Undergraduate Medical Education.
  6. Other areas of interest that are related to Undergraduate Medical Education and that are deemed suitable by both the Master Teacher and the Director of the Master Teacher Program.

The following activities are also encouraged, but not mandatory aspects of the Master Teacher program:

  1. Attending the Medical Education Research Group (MERG) sessions on Wednesday afternoons from 16:00-17:00.
  2. Presenting at the Medical Education Research Group sessions once or more per year.

In general, there are two types of small group sessions. The first are those associated with the systems-based courses in the first two years. These sessions typically have 10-12 students per group and are used to reinforce concepts introduced during lectures through case-based interactive discussions. For each small group session a Preceptor’s Guide has been prepared that contains learning objectives, a description of the case and answers to each of the questions that are to be covered during the session. Small group sessions for Global Health, Healthy Populations, Ethics and Physicianship courses also have 10 – 12 students and preceptor guides to direct discussion are also provided.

The second type of small group session typically consists of 5 students; these include Communication skills, Physical Examination and Clinical Correlation sessions. During these sessions, preceptors will have an opportunity to interact with students in a longitudinal fashion over the entire first two years of the curriculum.

The expectation is that a Master Teacher will be able to facilitate a small group session in any of the courses throughout the 3 year curriculum when given adequate preparation time. While it is impossible for any one Master Teacher to be a content expert in all of these areas, the Master Teacher concept is based upon the premise that no matter the subject area, an outstanding teacher will have the skills necessary to facilitate the student’s learning in these sessions.

Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program:

In order to ensure that all Master Teachers have a consistent level of baseline educational expertise, the Office of Faculty Development,  has designed a University of Calgary-accredited Certificate Program. The Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program is a combination of interactive small group sessions and teaching sessions totaling 80 hours in length. The goal of the Program is to review the basic and advanced topics and techniques in medical education. The focus is on practical aspects of these topics so that the skills acquired during the course can be applied directly to the interactions with the students. Each Master Teacher is expected to complete the requirements for the Certificate within the first year of their hiring, with those hours counting towards the yearly total hours required for the Master Teacher Program. Once a Master Teacher has successfully completed the Teaching Scholars Program, it is expected that they will help teach sessions within the Certificate program in the future.

Who Should Apply?

Master Teachers are enthusiastic team players with a passion for teaching. Successful candidates will also have:

  1. Proven track-record of excellence in teaching (preferably at the UME level).
  2. Exemplary communication skills.
  3. Commitment to setting and meeting high expectations for themselves and their learners.
  4. Ability to adapt to new situations rapidly.
  5. Desire to help medical students become the best physicians possible.

Master Teachers must understand and be willing to promote the educational goals, objectives and principles of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and the Clinical Presentation Curriculum. These principles include:

1. The problem solving approach (scheme) is the method used to structure and organize course content.

2. Learning methods include a balance of lectures, small groups, patient presentations and bedside teaching. During small group teaching, students actively apply their knowledge to the solution of a clinical problem often using the framework of the scheme. This actively shapes their knowledge into a cognitive structure that will facilitate problem solving.

3. Evaluation methods measure clinical problem solving ability as well as general content knowledge.

Why would you want to become a Master Teacher?

1. An opportunity to make a significant impact on the educational experiences of the next generation of physicians. 
2. Regular faculty development sessions that serve to advance teaching skills. 
3. The means to complete a University-accredited Certificate Program. 
4. The opportunity to interact and learn with like-minded colleagues. 
5. Salary support for dedicated teaching time. 
6. Full support for new educational initiatives or research related to medical education. 
7. The opportunity to serve as a role model for teaching excellence throughout the University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and beyond.

Contract Details:

Each Master Teacher will be offered a one year contract that is renewable contingent upon satisfactory performance (based on student evaluations and peer review), graduating from the Teaching Scholars in Medicine Certificate Program and completion of the required hours. A record of the educational activities must be kept by each Master Teacher for review at the end of each year. A salary of $40,000 per annum will be offered to those clinicians not being remunerated through an Alternative Funding Plan. 
All members of the Master Teacher Program will meet once every two months to discuss issues relevant to the program. In addition, each Master Teacher will meet individually with the Director of the Master Teacher Program twice a year.


The Master Teacher Program is an exciting initiative with the mandate to recruit, retain and enrich those educators who strive to inspire our students to excel. By recognizing the important role that these educators play in the development of future generations of physicians, the University of Calgary will continue to be an innovative leader in the realm of medical education for years to come.

If you are interested in receiving more information about the Master Teacher Program, please contact:

Heather Baxter CCFP, FCFP
Director, Master Teacher Program
Office of Undergraduate Medical Education
Rm G717, Health Sciences Centre
3330 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 4N1