A phenomenological research study: Perspectives of student learning through small group work between undergraduate nursing students and educators

Nurse Educ Today. 2018 Sep;68:153-158. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2018.06.013. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Background: Small group work is an effective teaching-learning approach in nursing education to enhance students' learning in theoretical knowledge and skill development. Despite its potential advantageous effects on learning, little is known about its actual effects on students' learning from students' and educators' perspectives.

Objectives: To understand students' learning through small group work from the perspectives of students and educators.

Design: A qualitative study with focus group interviews was carried out.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were performed with 13 undergraduate nursing students and 10 educators.

Results: Four main themes, "initiative learning", "empowerment of interactive group dynamics", "factors for creating effective learning environment", and "barriers influencing students' learning", were derived regarding students' learning in small group work based on the perspectives of the participants. The results showed the importance of learning attitudes of students in individual and group learning. Factors for creating an effective learning environment, including preference for forming groups, effective group size, and adequacy of discussion, facilitate students' learning with the enhancement of learning engagement in small group work. The identified barriers, such as "excessive group work", "conflicts", and "passive team members" can reduce students' motivation and enjoyment of learning.

Conclusion: Small group work is recognized as an effective teaching method for knowledge enhancement and skill development in nursing education. All identified themes are important to understand the initiatives of students and group learning, factors influencing an effective learning environment, and barriers hindering students' learning. Nurse educators should pay more attention to the factors that influence an effective learning environment and reduce students' commitment and group dynamics. Moreover, students may need further support to reduce barriers that impede students' learning motivation and enjoyment.

Keywords: A phenomenological research study; Attitudes; Collaborative learning; Learning; Nursing education; Small group work.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate
  • Faculty, Nursing*
  • Focus Groups
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*