Aarhus Universitets segl

Practice architectures of clinical educational leadership

This project aims to explore and develop the pedagogical practices of educational leaders who work at the crossroads between undergraduate and postgraduate clinical education. These educational leaders work in the same site: the teaching hospital where education and production go hand in hand. However, they are organizationally anchored in two separate systems: the university and the region, which are not always pedagogically aligned.

At the heart of their common educational task lies the enabling of learners’ continuing professional development from medical student to young doctor and from young doctor to medical specialist. Transferability of knowledge and skills from university to the workplace is highly important to support this progression, and undergraduate and postgraduate clinical educational leaders have an important role in supporting transfer through organising educational tasks, ensuring quality, and developing the educational environment.

However, clinical educational leaders experience challenges because they need to understand, lead, and develop education in a complex system where educational practice is often secondary to production and research. Furthermore, educational leaders in higher education are known to be challenged by conflicting priorities, budget restrictions, and limited power. All these demands and complexities have constraining effects on clinical educational leaders’ spaces of agency and their opportunities to work together at different educational levels. This can have a negative impact on the quality of clinical education and transfer between educational levels and calls for supportive measures and educational leadership training.

The research literature provides some examples of training programmes and support measures for clinical educational leaders. However, there is a lack of research-informed pedagogical models and tools to help educational leaders theorize their practice and develop the agency needed to successfully respond to and influence the environments in which they work. In this project, we therefore aim to develop and test a pedagogical model and related tools based on the theory of practice architectures – a contemporary practice theory that explains how practices are enabled, constrained, and changed.


The project consists of three studies applying a variety of methods in a sequential design including empirical data collection, theoretical development, and action research.

Study 1 is a mixed-methods study combining a questionnaire and qualitative investigation using audio diaries to explore the pedagogical practices of undergraduate and postgraduate clinical educational leaders.

Study 2 is a theoretical study to develop a model based on previous research-based and practice-based knowledge. The model will be informed primarily by the theory of practice architectures which will be operationalised with the professional learning needs of educational leaders (and the current lack of adequate resources) in mind. The aim of this study is to lay ground for future empirical studies to explore the impact of a theoretically informed pedagogical model in different contexts.

Study 3 is an intervention to test the model developed in study 2 with a group of clinical educational leaders. The pilot will be planned as an action research study with a qualitative investigation of how the model contributes to the formation of a common pedagogical approach and increased collaboration among the participants.


The project offers new insights into the practices of clinical educational leaders at undergraduate and postgraduate levels of education and how these practices are enabled and constrained by the educational environment. Furthermore, the project addresses a gap in the research literature concerning theoretically informed educational models to support and train educational leaders.

Through the development and pilot testing of a pedagogical model and related tools based on the theory of practice architectures, we hope to contribute a new theoretical understanding of clinical educational leadership. Such a model could potentially improve the quality of clinical education and the transfer between educational levels through the development of clinical educational leadership practice.

Read more

  • Edwards-Groves, C., Wilkinson, J., & Mahon, K. (2020). Leading as shared transformative educational practice. (In, Pedagogy, Education, and Praxis in Critical Times. (pp. 117-140). Springer
  • Mahon, K., Francisco, S., & Kemmis, S. (2017). Exploring education and professional practice: Through the lens of practice architectures. (Singapore: Springer Science+Business Media
  • Malling, B., Mortensen, L. S., Scherpbier, A. J., & Ringsted, C. (2010). Educational climate seems unrelated to leadership skills of clinical consultants responsible of postgraduate medical education in clinical departments. BMC Medical Education, 10, 1-8
  • Thelin, K. (2020). Creating a reflective space in higher education: The case of a Swedish course for professional principals. Learning and Teaching, 13, 1-17. DOI 10.3167/latiss.2020.13030
  • Watts, T. (2019). Enabling online initiatives: The role of teaching and learning center leaders at small, private colleges. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 22 (4), n4.
  • Wilkinson, J., Olin, A., Lund, T., Ahlberg, A., & Nyvaller, M. (2010). Leading praxis: exploring educational leadership through the lens of practice architectures. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 18 (1), 67-79. DOI 10.1080/14681360903556855