Learning and teaching in small groups: characteristics, benefits, problems and approaches

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2007 Aug;35(4):587-92. doi: 10.1177/0310057X0703500420.


Small group learning may be defined as a group of learners demonstrating three common characteristics; active participation, a specific task and reflection. This article provides an overview of small group learning and teaching, describes the characteristics of this form of small group work, benefits, problems, potential causes of less than optimal sessions, and summarises specific approaches. These include tutorials, free-discussion groups, brainstorming, snowballing, buzz groups, paired (or one-to-one) discussion, clinical teaching, simulations, seminars, plenary sessions, problem-based learning, team-based learning, role plays, games and IT approaches. The article concludes with an emphasis on the importance of the teacher and a check list for use when planning, teaching and evaluating a small group session.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Models, Educational*
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Teaching / methods*