Introduction support student learning. Small groups Small

April 18, 2019 Teaching

This essay looks at why teachers choose to teach in particular ways in particular circumstances. Using evidence from educational and professional literature, it analyses two teaching strategies for facilitating teaching sessions. It also considers how these strategies are modified in the clinical environment. A description of both teaching strategies is supplied and a rationale why certain teachers use them. Literature supporting its use is also analysed.
Biggs and Tang (2011) mention key critical components of teaching and how teaching methods and strategies used, including the curriculum and assessment methods, should facilitate student learning. This suggests that certain methods are better aligned to achieve specific learning outcomes and curriculum objectives than others. Further to this, Biggs and Tang (2011) argue that constructive alignment of all curriculum components must occur to enable deep learning by the student. This essay analyses how small groups and lectures, both support student learning.

Small groups
Small group work strategies, and group learning is intended to get students to work together, share ideas, and learn from each other. The concept of this is to help students achieve maximum learning through active participation in small group environments (Race 2014). Furthermore, group work allows students to work together and become more socially involved as part of a team, either in a classroom setting, or indeed outside the classroom. Using small groups, encourages learners to take ownership for learning. Boud et al (2001) describes how we can learn from others around us in an informal way in all aspects of life. Boud et al (2001) states that this may not be the best way of gaining information but it seems the timeliest. He suggests that when students are faced with a learning problem, they will turn to fellow peers and students to seek clarification before going to ask a teacher, and this sharing of learning makes it more enjoyable.
Many teachers and lecturers choose to teach in small groups for various reasons. Commonly the reasons are to increase student understanding of content, and to build transferable skills using peer to peer instruction while problem solving (Johnson, et al., 2008). Working in these small groups encourages and allows students to improve on their range of interpersonal skills that may not be as achievable in large groups or lectures (Race 2014). He suggests that skills such as listening, creative thinking, and building on existing work, combined with time management, are needed in future employment and this strategy also benefits the student to develop skills in arguing, presenting and debating.
As with any teaching and learning strategy there are many pros and cons. Johnson et al (2014) concluded that students who participated in group work acquired greater knowledge, greater problem solving abilities and retention of content than students who were not involved in groups. This was concluded after analysing 168 studies of undergraduate students. Further support of small group learning is evident in the feedback from students via the national student survey in the UK according to Race (2014). He noted that feedback from students included improvement of personal development attributes, such as increased confidence and better communication skills, linking them to small group learning contexts.
(Gopee 2015) suggests that in clinical practice small group learning can take place in the controlled environment of a classroom, and students can gain knowledge from simulation and acquire the skills needed to solve future problems. He also states that small group learning can be useful in practice placements such as ward rounds and observation of skills. Furthermore, mentors are assigned to students on clinical placements and work in small groups to ensure adequate supervision, assessment and feedback take place.

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A lecture has been a traditional and cost effective way of giving a shared experience and equal information to large groups of students. This is an oral presentation usually backed up with a visual aid such as a PowerPoint presentation or video clips. This strategy encourages students to make their own notes and aims to help construct their knowledge (Race 2014).
Using a lecture to deliver material and learning is an age old tradition which still remains, and is a large part of university education. This may be due to institutional pressure to deliver effective and efficient learning to large numbers in a single session (Fry, et al., 2008). According to Gibbs (1981) there are many reasons for not changing from tradition. Lectures may be the choice of certain lecturers, because they are ignorant to alternative methods, and that lecturing is taken for granted. He states that they are ignorant about the evidence on the effectiveness of lectures, for example; students lack of attention after half an hour, gaps in their notes and poor memory of the content. This suggests that their job title as a lecturer is taken literally and that is what they are solely employed to do day to day.
Charlton (2006) argues that lectures are by far the best choice to bridge gaps between the lecturer and the students. He suggests that people can learn more from spoken information as opposed to written, and that a quiet controlled environment lends itself to improved uptake of learning. With advances in technology, the way in which students receive information can differ from the traditional lecture theatre. Copey (2007) talks about universities broadcasting lectures in the form of podcasts. This enables students who attend lectures, the ability to review and revise the content. It also allows any student that is absent, to watch at a later date. In the clinical environment lectures still exist for grouped learning but according to Gopee (2015) it is difficult to cite examples of application because of mixed student specialities. He adds that group work or discussions should follow each lecture to allow for analysis. Luscombe and Montgomery (2016) report on a study that shows that medical students prefer an interactive lecture and its ability to facilitate visual and auditory learning modes. They state that interactive lectures improve student attitude and motivation towards learning.

This essay looked at why teachers choose to teach in particular ways in particular circumstances. It focused on small groups and lectures as teaching strategies, and analysed how they facilitated teaching sessions using evidence from educational and professional literature. Consideration was given to how these decisions are modified in the clinical environment. Consideration for choosing a particular strategy vary, and this essay argues reasons for choosing a strategy, and indeed arguments for not straying from a preferred strategy. It also refers to evidence that interactive lectures, and podcasts of lectures, are welcomed enhancements to how students learn.


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