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Chris Watling

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Current Appointments

Scientist, CERI
Associate Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Associate Professor, Departments of Clinical Neurological Sciences and Oncology


Educational Background

MD, Dalhousie University
FRCPC, Neurology, University of Western Ontario
Fellowship, Pain and Symptom management, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Master of Medical Education, University of Dundee
PhD in Medical Education, Maastricht University

Research Program Highlights

Publications from Google Scholar

Personal Biography

In his youth, the rhythm of a music career appealed to Chris’s sense of curiosity and his appreciation for discipline. The practicing, the limitless potential to refine, the continual feedback of directors and teachers, and the dedication necessary to excel at the craft of music each fed into the values Chris held as a budding musician and scholar. Later, as a medical student, resident and fellow, the natural curiosity Chris cultivated as a student of music allowed him to follow his interest deeply into the workings of neurology, pain, and cancers of the brain. Eventually, these ever deepening interests took Chris to Sudbury, Ontario where he practiced for four years.

As a newly independent specialist with a neurological skill set that was unique in Sudbury, Chris found he quickly became the point person for neurological teaching. Clinical teaching of residents, small group workshops, grand rounds, lectures: if it had to do with neurology, Chris was teaching it. During his sudden immersion into the role of educator Chris began to turn that same love of learning he had developed as a musician and fostered as an apprentice physician toward theories of teaching. He began to question how students were best taught, how students said they learned, and whether systems of medical education could be improved to reflect the cognitive gymnastics students go through when they try to think like and become physicians. A fairly rapid series of changes followed in Chris’s life to facilitate this new path of inquiry. He became the neurology program director at Western. He completed the Harvard Macy Program for physician educators. He completed his Master’s degree in Health Professions Education and he began doctoral work in the same.

Through these graduate studies he opened up a diverse program of research which focused on qualitative data and attempted to understand the most foundational elements of how trainees learn to be physicians. He researched the outcomes of communication skills workshops for neurology residents. He explored productivity of in-training evaluation and the structure and outcomes of feedback. He expanded beyond feedback to ask broad questions about different types of learning cues trainees respond to and which cues they decide are most credible in specific situations. Today, Chris’s research is attempting to collate the internal experiences of absorbing and interpreting feedback with professional learning cultures and the external social cues learners bring to the educational experience. As his program of research evolves, Chris’s work will contribute to the structure and function of medical teaching programs by giving teachers an opportunity to respond to the actual experiences of students and to emphasize the teaching strategies that his research unveils as effective.