• Training improves student performance and perceptions in small group learning

      Hopper, Mari K.; Gidley, Patrick; Mann, Daniel; Weinzapfel, Jacob
      Fifty percent of course contact time in the “renewed” curriculum at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) was dedicated to non-didactic, small-group learning. End of course evaluations indicated that students did not understand or value the approach, perhaps due to lack of training in this methodology. Our aim was to determine if engaging students in training designed to enhance small group dynamics and explain outcomes of this approach would result in improved small group performance and enhanced perceptions. Following IRB approval, small-group case-based sessions were audiotaped on two occasions prior to training (Pre), and two additional sessions following training (Post). Recordings were evaluated and scored by trained evaluators using a rubric including the following categories: Participation, Shared Roles, Focus on Learning Objectives, Approach, Independent Thinking and Interpersonal Interaction. Scores for each category were averaged across the three evaluators both Pre and Post. Additionally, to assess student perceptions, a 15-question survey was administered at three time periods: 1) before any small group sessions or training; 2) after recording two small group sessions and directly prior to training; and 3) following training and after recording two additional sessions. Survey questions included topics such as personal preparation, interpersonal interactions, prior undergraduate experience, and perceptions of small group as an effective learning strategy. Question responses were based on a Likert scale of one through seven. Although work is ongoing, preliminary data analysis using paired T-tests indicate that participation scores increased following training, with members participating more equally and encouraging input from each other more frequently. There was little change in rubric scores for other criteria including ability to share roles and addressing learning objectives. Survey responses reveal that students enjoy small group sessions more, contribute more equally, and have fewer tangential discussions in comparison to the pre-training survey responses. These data suggest that students participating in small group learning sessions benefit from training in this approach, and such training will enhance student perceptions regarding effectiveness of this learning strategy.