Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Manchester (2010) Proc Physiol Soc 19, PC81

Poster Communications

Encouraging participation in large tutorial groups: use of different activities in 1st year respiratory physiology small group teaching sessions

C. J. Ray1

1. School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


In order to increase the number of UK doctors the government funded an increase in medical school places, which has led to an increase in the number of students studying medicine from 3749 in 1998 to 5894 in 2005 (1). In Tomorrow’s Doctors (2) the GMC states that, “Learning opportunities must help students explore knowledge, and evaluate and integrate evidence critically. The curriculum must motivate students and help them develop the skills for self-directed learning.” The increase in student numbers has presented some challenges to developing these skills in small group teaching (SGT) sessions. At the University of Birmingham the Introduction to Respiratory Medicine module for year one medical students includes 10 hours of physiology lectures and 6 hours of physiology SGT sessions. The increase in the number of medical students has meant that SGT sessions now take place with groups of up to 18 students with one tutor (a member of academic staff). This large number has meant that some students adopt a passive approach to the sessions and that other students can dominate. Encouraging all students to participate in SGT sessions can enhance group deep learning (3) and may help in the development of the skills required by the GMC. To encourage participation two activities were developed. In the first, students were given a case study entitled Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) of the Newborn and were asked to independently research a series of questions. The aim of this was to encourage the students to assess their own knowledge and to research areas beyond the core curriculum to aid their understanding. In the subsequent SGT session a group discussion, prompted by the questions the students had researched, was led by the tutor. With the confidence gained from their specific preparation for the session student participation was high and they were able to enthusiastically discuss, without prompting, many aspects of respiratory physiology directly and indirectly related to the case study. A second activity developed from a ‘Misconceptions’ article entitled “What does one mean by ‘arterial blood oxygenation?’” (4) was used within an SGT session. The students were randomly divided into groups of 3-4 and asked to discuss different physiological parameters used for assessing arterial oxygenation in patients before presenting their deliberations to the rest of the group. Feedback from students indicated that working in small groups increased the likelihood that they would actively participate in SGT sessions. These and other similar activities may be useful in encouraging student participation and generating enthusiasm to learn in large groups. They also provide an opportunity for formative assessment and feedback and for developing the skills required by the GMC.

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