ABC of learning and teaching in medicine – small groups

Problems associated with leading effective small groups

The teacher gives a lecture rather than conducting a dialogue

The teacher talks too much

Students cannot be encouraged to talk except with difficulty; they will not talk to each other, but will only respond to questions from the tutor

Students do not prepare for the sessions

One student dominates or blocks the discussion

The students want to be given the solutions to problems rather than  discuss them

Techniques for effective facilitation in group discussion

  • Ensure that group members have an agreed set of ground rules—for example, not talking at the same time as another group member
  • Ensure that the students are clear about the tasks to be carried out x When you present a question don’t answer it yourself or try to reformulate it—count to 10 silently before speaking again
  • When you have something you could say (which could be most of the time), count to 10 again
  • Look round the group both when you are speaking and when a student is speaking. That way the students will quickly recognize that they are addressing the group rather than just you. It will allow you to pick up cues from those who want to speak but are either a bit slow or inhibited.

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