Skip to main content
Questioning Competence: A Discourse Analysis of Attending Physicians' Use of Questions to Assess Trainee Competence
Academic Medicine (2007)
  • Tara J. T. Kennedy, University of Toronto
  • Lorelei A. Lingard, University of Toronto

BACKGROUND: Attending physicians (APs) must constantly assess trainees' competence to act independently, to promote learning while ensuring quality of care. This study aimed to explore, through discourse analysis of case presentations, the process of competence assessment for case-specific clinical independence.

METHOD: Twenty-six case presentations in emergency medicine were observed and audiorecorded. A discourse analysis was conducted, focusing on APs' use of questioning strategies.

RESULTS: Questioning strategies involved clarifying questions (to ensure APs' understanding of the case), probing questions (to probe trainees' understanding of a case or their underlying knowledge), and challenging questions (to challenge presuppositions). Case-related probing questions and challenging questions were found to be linguistic features of APs' assessments of trainees' competence.

CONCLUSIONS: The identification of specific linguistic features of the process of competence assessment by APs provides a framework for faculty development and future study of the function and effects of such discourse patterns.

  • Clinical Competence,
  • Medical Education,
  • Educational Measurement,
  • Emergency Medicine,
  • Medical Staff,
  • Ontario,
  • Questionnaires,
  • Teaching
Publication Date
October, 2007
Publisher Statement

Dr. Lorelei Lingard is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario. 

Citation Information
Tara J. T. Kennedy and Lorelei A. Lingard. "Questioning Competence: A Discourse Analysis of Attending Physicians' Use of Questions to Assess Trainee Competence" Academic Medicine Vol. 82 Iss. 10 Suppl (2007)
Available at: