Medical Science Educator

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 309–313 | Cite as

The Effect of Participation in a Small-Group Discussion Session on Medical Student Learning of Intestinal Pathophysiology

Original Research


Medical students are faced with the challenge of assimilating a large amount of content in a short period of time. They are motivated to look for the most efficient approach to learning and to perform well on their national licensing examinations. Medical schools are driven by accrediting agencies to reform their curriculum to increase active and collaborative learning opportunities. This prospective study evaluated the performance outcomes of an active small-group instructional session on benign colonic disorders between students who attended the session and those who did not. All students had access to the same materials and the recordings of the session through the university’s learning management system. Performance was determined by a 12-question pre-/posttest as well as the related items on the course’s final examination. All students performed significantly better on the posttest compared to the pretest (“Yes” attended and “No” did not attend: pre/post p < 0.001). There was no difference between the two groups on posttest performance (p = 0.59) or on the related questions on the final examination [Yes/No, 83.7/85.6% (p = 0.56)]. However, students who attended the session had a lower score on the remainder of the examination than those who did not attend the session [Yes/No, 81.8/85.0% (p = 0.04)] suggesting that the in-class small-group activity may have had a protective effect on performance. This study showed that participation in an active learning session was non-inferior and may benefit students that would have otherwise had lower performance justifying the large faculty effort in designing and delivering this modality.


Small-group learning Active learning 



Special thanks to Jonathan Kibble, PhD, for his guidance with data interpretation and statistics.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Education, College of Medicine, University of Central FloridaHealth Science Campus of Lake NonaOrlandoUSA

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