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Kans J Med. 2018 Aug 30;11(3):70-75. eCollection 2018 Aug.

Exploring the Impact of Group Size on Medical Students' Perception of Learning and Professional Development During Clinical Rotations.

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University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Department of Family and Community Medicine.



Research assessing the size of learning groups in medical education and how that affects the learner's experience is limited. The main goals of the study were to (1) assess the effect of varying group size on medical students' subjective experiences during clinical years. We hypothesized that students in smaller groups were more likely to have better experiences during clinical rotation than those in larger groups, and (2) determine if medical students have desirable experiences working with other medical learners (fellows, residents, osteopathic students, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners) during clinical rotations.


The study utilized a mixed method approach where 153 medical students in their clinical years were asked to complete a 10-item survey. A linear-by-linear association test of trend and Mann-Whitney U test were used to evaluate the students' quantitative data. A multidisciplinary team used an immersion-crystallization approach to analyze the content of the students' qualitative data.


There was a 90% (137/153) response rate. Most students (80%) reported desirable experiences during clinical rotations because of supportive learning environments, engaging preceptors, willingness of residents to teach, as well as the opportunity to participate in patient care. There were significant differences in students' perceived clinical experiences as a function of group size, where groups of two students were preferable over groups of four or more.


Varying group size appears to affect students' clinical experiences.


clinical clerkships; group structure; professional autonomy; undergraduate medical education


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