Peer-instructed seminar attendance is associated with improved preparation, deeper learning and higher exam scores: A survey study

Rianne A M Bouwmeester*, Renske A M De Kleijn, Harold V M Van Rijen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Active engagement in education improves learning outcomes. To enhance active participation in seminars, a student-centered course design was implemented and evaluated in terms of self-reported preparation, student motivation and exam scores. We hypothesized that small group learning with intensive peer interaction, using buzz-groups followed by plenary discussion, would motivate students to prepare seminar assignments at home and to actively engage in the seminars. Active engagement involved discussion of the preparatory assignments until consensus was reached. Methods: In total seven seminars were scheduled in a 10-week physiology course of an undergraduate Biomedical Sciences program. After each seminar, students were asked to fill out their perceptions of preparation and quality of the seminar (deepening of knowledge and confidence in answers) on a five-point scale using electronic questionnaires. Student motives were first collected using open questions. In the final questionnaire students were asked to indicate on a five-point scale how each motive was perceived. Students overall explanations why they had learned from seminars were collected via open questions in the final questionnaire. One hundred and twenty-four students of the cohort from November 2012 to February 2013 (82.6 %) voluntarily participated. Students' motives to prepare and attend seminars were analyzed by inspection of descriptive statistics. Linear regression analysis was conducted to relate student preparation to the quality of seminars, seminar attendance to exam scores, and exam scores to the quality of seminars. Answers to open questions were deductively clustered. Results: Studying the material, training for exams and comparing answers with peers motivated students to prepare the seminars. Students were motivated to participate actively because they wanted to keep track of correct answers themselves, to better understand the content and to be able to present their findings in plenary discussions. Perceived preparation of peers was positively associated with the perceived quality of seminars. Also, seminar attendance was positively associated with exam scores. Students' overall explanations suggest that discussing with peers and applying knowledge in pathophysiology cases underlies this association. Conclusion: Discussion with well-prepared peers during seminars improves student perceptions of deeper learning and peer-instructed seminar attendance was associated with higher exam scores.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16:200
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2016


  • Active learning
  • Engagement
  • Participation
  • Small-group seminar learning
  • Student motives


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