Teachers' perceptions of aspects affecting seminar learning: a qualitative study

Annemarie Spruijt, Ineke Wolfhagen, Harold Bok, Eva Schuurmans, Albert Scherpbier, Peter van Beukelen, Debbie Jaarsma

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    BACKGROUND: Many medical schools have embraced small group learning methods in their undergraduate curricula. Given increasing financial constraints on universities, active learning groups like seminars (with 25 students a group) are gaining popularity. To enhance the understanding of seminar learning and to determine how seminar learning can be optimised it is important to investigate stakeholders' views. In this study, we qualitatively explored the views of teachers on aspects affecting seminar learning.

    METHODS: Twenty-four teachers with experience in facilitating seminars in a three-year bachelor curriculum participated in semi-structured focus group interviews. Three focus groups met twice with an interval of two weeks led by one moderator. Sessions were audio taped, transcribed verbatim and independently coded by two researchers using thematic analysis. An iterative process of data reduction resulted in emerging aspects that influence seminar learning.

    RESULTS: Teachers identified seven key aspects affecting seminar learning: the seminar teacher, students, preparation, group functioning, seminar goals and content, course coherence and schedule and facilities. Important components of these aspects were: the teachers' role in developing seminars ('ownership'), the amount and quality of preparation materials, a non-threatening learning climate, continuity of group composition, suitability of subjects for seminar teaching, the number and quality of seminar questions, and alignment of different course activities.

    CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study contribute to the unravelling of the 'the black box' of seminar learning. Suggestions for ways to optimise active learning in seminars are made regarding curriculum development, seminar content, quality assurance and faculty development.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)22
    JournalBMC Medical Education
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Curriculum
    • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
    • Faculty, Medical
    • Focus Groups
    • Group Processes
    • Humans
    • Learning
    • Netherlands


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