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Prioritising the key behaviours that enhance the quality of collaborative learning by medical students: A modified Delphi study

Maha Iqbal, Gary M Velan, Anthony J O'Sullivan, Chinthaka Balasooriya


Introduction: Medical education has transitioned to require more active student learning, including self-directed and collaborative approaches. Although there are many advantages to collaborative small-group environments, learning in this setting is not always effective. One potential factor is that behaviours that are key to the success of small-group collaborative learning in medical education are yet to be clearly defined. In this study, we aimed to identify and prioritise behaviours that are relevant to individual students effective collaborative learning in small groups. 

Method: A two-round modified-Delphi approach was used to identify student behaviours that positively influenced the success of small-group collaborative-learning environments. In Round 1, the panel members were asked to rate the impact of 15 student behaviours on two subscales: (1) enhancing the quality of learning and (2) fostering a collaborative environment. The top 10 behaviours identified were utilised for Round 2, in which the panel members were asked to rank the behaviours based on the magnitude of their positive impact on students’ quality of learning. 

Results: Collaborative group behaviours were prioritised in Round 2, and the top six behaviours were selected for the design of a user-friendly educational intervention for medical students. The key behaviours identified were preparation by the student, involvement in discussion, engagement in learning, listening skills, sharing views and voicing opinions, reflecting on feedback and responding appropriately.

Conclusions: This study identified six key behaviours that influence students’ learning in small-group collaborative-learning environments. These findings will inform further research at our institution into the development and evaluation of an educational intervention that aims to foster the identified behaviours in medical students.


collaborative learning; Delphi technique; behaviours; group learning; small group teaching

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