Context: Although the medical schools in Iraq recently started to increasingly use the small group teaching approach, only little is known about the students’ perceptions toward this approach. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess small group teaching as a method of teaching at Hawler College of Medicine, from the students’ perspectives.
Setting: This study was a qualitative study which was based on six focus group discussions which involved a sample of students from the three last years at the Hawler College of Medicine. A topic guide was used to lead the discussions and it covered questions on the positive aspects and the problems of small group teaching in the college, in addition to recommendations for its improvement. The qualitative data analysis involved a content analysis, followed by a thematic analysis.
Results: The participants were generally happy with the application of the small group teaching approach and they recognized many positive aspects which were related to this experience, which included, increasing the focus on the study subjects, enhancing the student-teacher interaction, building a better student-teacher relationship, encouraging the students’ attendance, providing a better opportunity to apply a student-centered learning, enhancing a more efficient use of time and assisting in a better understanding of the subjects. The main problems which were faced, included a poor infrastructure and teaching facilities, problems which were related to examinations and the mark distribution, an improper syllabus preparation and problems which were related to the teachers’ commitments and performances. The main suggestions which were put forth to improve this system, included, changing the assessment system with the focus more on the end of the course assessment, the students’ involvement in the curriculum design, improving the infrastructure and teaching facilities and a better organization and management of the system.
Conclusions: The concept of the small group teaching approach was well received by the students and many positive aspects of this approach have been highlighted. However, this experience witnessed many problems and faced different challenges that need better preparation, organization of the resources and the orientation of students and teachers, for insuring its success.