Why teach in small groups?

Lesson plans in modern teaching can often include a hermetic schedule. In the world of 30 children's classrooms and constant testing, if a child needs a little extra attention on a particular topic, this can often go unnoticed. This is not the fault of teachers, but simply a reality of the current education system. However, in small groups, tutors and teachers are much more likely to be able to deviate from a less rigid plan and allow children to develop at their own pace.

Small-group teaching is a different mode of teaching and is closely related to active learning. Consequently, small group teaching has become increasingly popular within the education of the medical professions and Within each pedagogy of small group teaching, students are encouraged to apply and transfer new knowledge through in-depth discussion, collaboration and reflection. The format of small group teaching activities required to develop students' knowledge, skills and values should be considered in curriculum planning and teaching. A teacher can create an activity for students to participate in and then observe what they are doing, asking probing questions to learn how they participate in the task.

Compared to conference-based teaching, these small-group methods provide a more fruitful academic environment and maximize student learning, and remain the preferred approach of pedagogy in educating health professionals. Small groups should not include the same students, whom the teacher may generally perceive as “the slow group.” It reinforces the way that small group instruction allows the teacher to adapt instruction to the needs of students. The key characteristics of small group teaching are the active participation of students throughout the learning cycle and the interactive and social process. Small-group instruction generally follows whole-group instruction to reinforce or re-teach specific skills and concepts and provides a reduced student-teacher ratio.

While small group learning and teaching are commonly associated with tutoring and seminars, they can also include learning and teaching contexts such as study, practice, and laboratory teaching. In this case, the teacher may choose to place a higher-performing student in the peer support role. The challenge of small group instruction is the management of other students who must participate in meaningful tasks during independent work time while the teacher works with a small group. While the challenges in small group teaching are not as obvious as in large classes, this context is not completely problem-free.

Small groups are great, as students themselves can help explain to other students their own way of teaching. It provides an overview of key theoretical principles in structure, lesson planning, different formats of small group teaching, delivery and provision of effective feedback to students. A well-planned small group teaching session provides a systematic approach for both teachers and students, whether in the university “classroom”, in the hospital, or in the community “clinical setting”.

Colleen Sluder
Colleen Sluder

Professional student. Friendly food aficionado. Friendly food evangelist. Passionate zombie scholar. Friendly zombie maven. Certified bacon nerd.