Understanding the Mentoring Environment Through Thematic Analysis of the Learning Environment in Medical Education: a Systematic Review

  • Jia Min Hee
  • Hong Wei Yap
  • Zheng Xuan Ong
  • Simone Qian Min Quek
  • Ying Pin TohEmail author
  • Stephen Mason
  • Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna
Review Papaer



Mentoring’s success has been attributed to individualised matching, holistic mentoring relationships (MRs) and personalised mentoring environments (MEs). Whilst there is growing data on matching and MRs, a dearth of ME data has hindered development of mentoring programme. Inspired by studies likening MEs to learning environments (LEs) and data highlighting common characteristics between the two, this systematic review scrutinises reports on LEs to extrapolate the findings to the ME context to provide a better understanding of ME and their role in the mentoring process.


Using identical search strategies, 6 reviewers carried out independent literature reviews of LEs in clinical medicine published between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2015 using PubMed, ERIC, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Google Scholar and Scopus databases. Braun and Clarke’s (2006) approach to thematic analysis was adopted to circumnavigate LE’s evolving, context-specific, goal-sensitive, learner-tutor relationally dependent nature.


A total of 4574 abstracts were identified, 90 articles were reviewed, and 58 full-text articles were thematically analysed. The two themes identified were LE structure and LE culture. LE structure regards the framework that guides interactions within the LE. LE culture concerns the values and practices influencing learner-tutor-host organisation interactions.


LE is the product of culture and structure that influence and are influenced by the tutor-learner-host organisation relationship. LE structure guides the evolving tutor-learner-host organisation relationship whilst the LE culture nurtures it and oversees the LE structure. Similarities between LEs and MEs allow LE data to inform programme designers of ME’s role in mentoring’s success.


learning environment medical education medical training mentoring mentoring environment 



The authors wish to thank Ms. Annelissa Chin, Senior Librarian from Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, for her guidance and advice on the literature search strategies for this paper. This paper is dedicated to the late Dr. S Radha Krishna whose advice and insights were critical to conceptualization of this review.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jia Min Hee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hong Wei Yap
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zheng Xuan Ong
    • 2
    • 4
  • Simone Qian Min Quek
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ying Pin Toh
    • 2
    • 6
    Email author
  • Stephen Mason
    • 7
  • Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Yong Loo Lin School of MedicineNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.National Cancer Centre SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Lee Kong Chian School of MedicineSingaporeSingapore
  4. 4.Singapore General HospitalSingaporeSingapore
  5. 5.Changi General HospitalSingaporeSingapore
  6. 6.Department of Family Medicine National University HospitalSingaporeSingapore
  7. 7.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  8. 8.Duke-NUS Medical SchoolSingaporeSingapore
  9. 9.Centre of Biomedical EthicsNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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