Expert vs. Non-Expert Tutor in Undergraduate Medical Education: A Critical Review


  • Talal A. Al Khatib King Abdulaziz University



Tutor; Problem-based learning; Collaborative learning; Tutor expertise


The objective of this review article was to critically analyze studies discussing tutor subject matter expertise and its effect on students' collaborative learning and performance in undergraduate medical education. The debate regarding tutors' subject matter expertise and its effect on students' learning puzzled educators. Problem-based learning model-advocates were concerned that tutors, having subject matter expertise, would revert back to familiar lecturing habits and interfere with students' collaborative learning. Others showed beneficial results reflected on learning and academic achievement. A Medline and PubMed databases literature review were conducted. Out of 88 relevant articles, 15 of them that compare expert and non-expert tutors were identified and reviewed critically. Literature was not decisive on whether tutors expertise provided beneficial effect(s) on students' learning. Few factors played an important role in these conflicting results. Definition of expertise was not unanimous among articles and measures of effectiveness were different. Medical schools' increasing demand for more Problem-based learning tutors drove the direction of research into biased route and underestimated related to non-expert tutors. Viewing the literature critically, tutor subject matter expertise displayed advantages that were reflected in students' learning sessions and afterwards. Disadvantages of non-expert tutoring should be highly scrutinized before replacing expert tutoring. Educators should focus mainly on developing clinicians' skills to become better teachers/facilitators and nothing else.  

Author Biography

Talal A. Al Khatib, King Abdulaziz University

Department of Otolaryngology - Head Neck Surgery



How to Cite

Al Khatib, T. A. (2014). Expert vs. Non-Expert Tutor in Undergraduate Medical Education: A Critical Review. Journal of King Abdulaziz University - Medical Sciences, 21(2), 29-43.




Most read articles by the same author(s)