MANUSCRIPT: The perceived effects of faculty presence vs. absence on small-group learning and group dynamics
Medical education increasingly relies on small-group learning. Small group learning provides more active learning, better retention, higher satisfaction, and facilitates development of problem-solving and team-working abilities. However, less is known about student experience and preference for different small groups teaching models. We evaluated group educational dynamics and group learning process in medical school clerkship small group case-based settings, with a faculty member present versus absent.
Students completed surveys after cases when the faculty was present (“in”) or absent (“out”) for the bulk of the discussion. 228 paired surveys (114 pairs) were available for paired analysis, assessing group dynamics, group learning process, student preference, and participation through self-report and self-rating of group behaviors tied to learning and discussion quality.
Ratings of group dynamics and group learning process were significantly higher with the faculty absent vs. present (p range <0.001 to 0.015). Students also reported higher levels of participation when the faculty member was absent (p = 0.03). Students were more likely to express a preference for having the faculty member present after “in” case vs. “out” case discussions. (p < 0.001). There was no difference in reported success of the case discussion after “in” vs. “out” cases (p = 0.67).
Student groups without faculty present reported better group dynamics, group learning processes, and participation with faculty absent. Students reported that they feel somewhat dependent on faculty, especially when the faculty is present, though there was no significant difference in students reporting that they obtained the most they could from the discussion of the case after both “in” and “out” cases.