A review of U.S. Medical schools’ promotion standards for educational excellence

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Teaching and learning in medicine


Phenomenon: Given the growing number of medical science educators, an examination of institutions' promotion criteria related to educational excellence and scholarship is timely. This study investigates the extent to which medical schools' promotion criteria align with published standards for documenting and evaluating educational activities. Approach: This document analysis systematically analyzed promotion and tenure (P&T) guidelines from U.S. medical schools. Criteria and promotion expectations (related to context, quantity, quality, and engagement) were explored across five educational domains including: (i) teaching, (ii) curriculum/program development, (iii) mentoring/advising, (iv) educational leadership/administration, and (v) educational measurement and evaluation, in addition to research/scholarship and service. After independent review and data extraction, paired researchers compared findings and reached consensus on all discrepancies prior to final data submission. Descriptive statistics assessed the frequency of referenced promotion criteria. Findings: Promotion-related documents were retrieved from 120 (of 185) allopathic and osteopathic U.S. medical schools. Less than half of schools (43%; 52 of 120) documented a well-defined education-related pathway for advancement in academic rank. Across five education-specific domains, only 24% (12 of 50) of the investigated criteria were referenced by at least half of the schools. The least represented domain within P&T documents was "Educational Measurement and Evaluation." P&T documents for 47% of schools were rated as "below average" or "very vague" in their clarity/specificity. Insights: Less than 10% of U.S. medical schools have thoroughly embraced published recommendations for documenting and evaluating educational excellence. This raises concern for medical educators who may be evaluated for promotion based on vague or incomplete promotion criteria. With greater awareness of how educational excellence is currently documented and how promotion criteria can be improved, education-focused faculty can better recognize gaps in their own documentation practices, and more schools may be encouraged to embrace change and align with published recommendations.

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