[The educational reach of discussion in small groups. The role of the professor's differential experience]

José Alberto García-Mangas, Leonardo Viniegra-Velázquez
Revista de Investigación Clínica; Organo del Hospital de Enfermedades de la Nutrición 2008, 60 (6): 486-95

INTRODUCTION: The teachers' formation program at IMSS includes the methodological diplomate in teaching level I (DMDI) and level II (DMDII). This program is based in educational strategies that promote the participation (guide towards knowledge elaboration). The importance of discussion in small groups (subgroups) to increase learning has been showed as part of such strategies.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the influence in learning of the professors' experience in coordinating the subgroup discussion.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Three groups of students were included (professors in teaching formation) that had consecutively studied the DMDI: DMDIa, DMDIb, and DMDIc. There was also included a group of DMDII whose students had participated in DMDI as coordinators of the subgroup discussion of DMDIb and DMDIc (DMDIa did not count with coordinators). Two instruments previously validated were used to evaluate the development of a position about education and scientific work (indicator of both: % of consequence). Evaluations were made at the beginning and end of each DMDI.

RESULTS: Position in education: at the beginning DMDIa = 36; DMDIb = 30, DMDIc = 31, without differences among them (p 0.65). After the interventions the increases were: DMDIa from 36 to 75 (p < 0.01), DMDIb from 30 to 91 (p < 0.01), DMDIc from 31 to 90 (p < 0.01). When comparing the groups among themselves, differences were found between DMDIa and DMDIb, DMDIa and DMDIc, and no differences were found between DMDIb and DMDIc. Position about scientific work: at the beginning DMDIa = 20; DMDIb = 14; DMDIc = 15 (p. 0.35). After the interventions the increases were: DMDIa from 20 to 35 (p < 0.05); DMDIb from 14 to 53 (p < 0.02), DMDIc from 15 to 79 (p < 0.001). When comparing the groups among themselves, difference was found between DMDIb and DMDIc (p < 0.02) and from these two and DMDIa.

DISCUSSION: The results support the hypothesis that the professor's experience in the coordination of subgroup discussion has a notorious influence in learning. The DMDIa group that did not have this support showed lower advances with both instruments. The DMDIb group that had coordinating professors with little experience had equivalent advances to DMDIc in position about education, and lower advances in the position about scientific work. The DMDIc group whose coordinating professors had a previous experience with the DMDIb group showed the greatest increases. Features of educational strategy promoting the participation are described as well as the importance of the experience of the professor in coordinating the discussion, to increase learning.

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