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Preparing to run a small group session

We have seen that one of the advantages of small group teaching is that it provides opportunities for in-depth discussion, reflection and consolidation of learning. Small group teaching is more costly than lectures or seminars in terms of time and physical resources, so it is important to maximise the learning that can be achieved by forward planning and appropriate structuring of activities.

This can be achieved by asking four fundamental questions (adapted from Spencer, 2003, p. 251):

  1. Who am I teaching? The number of learners and their level.
  2. What am I teaching? The topic or subject, the type of expected learning (knowledge, skills, behaviours).
  3. How will I teach it? Teaching and learning methods, length of time available, location of teaching session, access to patients, internet resources, clinical skills models, etc.
  4. How will I know if the students understand? Informal and formal assessments, questioning techniques, feedback from learners.


You might also want to ask:

  • What do they know already?
  • Where have they come from and what are they going on to next?
  • What do the learners expect from me and how can I find this out?
  • How can I build in sufficient flexibility to meet emergent needs?


Thinking point
  • Can you answer the above questions for all the groups you teach? If not, how might you find out the answers?

You will find more detailed ideas about identifying learning needs in the Assessing Educational Needs module in this series.

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