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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 387-390

Effectiveness of blend-in syndicate group method in practical classes among medical students in the subject of microbiology

1 Department of Microbiology, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Biochemistry, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Pediatrics, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission29-May-2020
Date of Decision10-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance24-Aug-2020
Date of Web Publication1-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Archana Dhok
Department of Biochemistry, JNMC, Sawangi, Wardha - 442 001, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_209_20

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Introduction: The core discussion skills of small group learning are questioning, listening, responding, and explaining. These skills provide the basis for the development of teamwork and collaborative learning. In the longer term, they can aid the development of communication competency with patients and colleagues. These benefits include the development of discussion skills and thinking, exploration of attitudes, and sharing and reflecting on experiences. With this view, this present study was carried out to enhance the importance of small group learning in the form of syndicate groups in practical classes. Materials and Methods: The study was prospective interventional study carried out in the department of microbiology. The study population included of 2nd year MBBS students attending microbiology practical class. A total of 54 students were included in the study. These students were divided into two groups, a study group and a control group by random sampling method. Pretest was given to all the students before the start of practical class. The control group was taught with the traditional method by one facilitator. The study group was engaged by other facilitator in syndicate small groups. Results: The posttest scores showed significant increase over the pretest in both exercises for both the groups. Posttest scores were compared using Student's t-test, between the study group and control group for both exercises, it showed significant difference implying syndicate group was effective for learning. The feedback from the students was also encouraging for the blend in syndicate group method. Conclusion: The primary purpose of the small group method is to develop discussion skills and thinking. Both tutors and students have roles and responsibilities in small group learning sessions. Blend-in syndicate group serves this purpose.

Keywords: Medical education, Small group, syndicate group

How to cite this article:
Damke S, Dhok A, Damke S. Effectiveness of blend-in syndicate group method in practical classes among medical students in the subject of microbiology. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2020;15:387-90

How to cite this URL:
Damke S, Dhok A, Damke S. Effectiveness of blend-in syndicate group method in practical classes among medical students in the subject of microbiology. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 4];15:387-90. Available from: http://www.journaldmims.com/text.asp?2020/15/3/387/308559

  Introduction Top

Effective small group learning in medicine is a much more challenging task than is often realized; it is relatively easier to have a meandering discussion with a group of medical students. It is much more difficult to get them to discuss constructively, to question and most important of all, to think. During the medical education, a graduate must exhibit all the three competencies-knowledge, skill, and attitudes. Faculty members struggle to balance an enormous amount of information to transmit to students in preparing them to perform in a clinical setting. Conventional learning (also referred to as traditional learning) tends to believe students as passive receptors of information, without taking into consideration the need to actively participate in the learning process. By its very nature, student-centered learning allows students to shape their own learning paths and places on them the responsibility to actively participate in making their educational process a meaningful one. Student-centered learning is an approach to learning in which learners choose not only what to study but also how and why.[1],[2] Most of these requirements can be fulfilled by adopting a syndicate group method. This particular method provides guidelines and suggestions on facilitating talking and thinking in groups; it considers the various methods of small group work and it outlines ways of evaluating the effectiveness of small group learning.

Syndicate learning is a form of peer learning involving small groups of 5–6 students working in semi-independent groups toward the achievement of a collective goal or task. Syndicate learning is a student-centered, self-directed, and self-motivated teaching method. In this method, a topic is split into sections and the group divided into teams. Each team works on a section of the topic and presents its views at a plenary. The tutor may act as a resource, coordinator and summarizer. Few medical topics are linear, most are multi-factorial. Hence, the method requires careful analysis and organization. The method is recommended by McKeachie and Svincki.[3]

There are some simple, effective methods of encouraging students to talk. With the exception of seating arrangements, all are based on the principles of “making the small group smaller” and reducing the fear of talking in the presence of a tutor. All the facilitating methods may be used to improve generic and specific methods of small group learning the aim of the present study was to evaluate effectiveness of blend-in syndicate group method in practical classes of medical students.

  Materials and Methods Top

The present study was prospective interventional study carried out in the department of microbiology, for 6 months, after obtaining ethical clearance. The study population included 2nd year MBBS students attending microbiology practical class.

In this present study, the 2nd year MBBS students were considered for the study. A total of 54 students were included in the study.

These students were divided into two groups, a study group (n = 27) and a control group (n = 27) by non random sampling method [Figure 1]. Pretest was given to all the students before the start of practical class. Then, the groups were asked to go to the respective identified and sensitized facilitator. The control group was taught with the traditional method by one facilitator. The study group was engaged by other facilitator and the group was divided into four small groups. The practical aspect of the topic to be taught was divided into four parts. Each group was given different part of topic to read and discuss among themselves. After this, a volunteer from each group was asked to discuss the topic in front of all groups and the facilitator, who helped or added points missed to the topic. After this, the posttest was conducted for all the students. Feedback forms were given to all the students containing open ended and close ended questions. In subsequent one practical class, there was crossover of the students so that the study group was now the control group which was taught by traditional method and vice versa.
Figure 1: Flow chart of the study

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Pretest and posttest analysis of the scores was done by Student's t-test.

Ethical clearance

The Institutional Ethics Committee of DMIMSDU has approved the Research work proposed to be carried out at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Sawangi(M), Wardha. Date: 2nd Feb 2019 with Reference no DMIMS(DU)/IEC/2019/82


In the present study, 54 students participated. These students were divided into study group (n = 27) and control group (n = 27). The study group was taught by syndicate small group teaching learning method while the control group was taught by conventional method. After the first session the next class, we cross over the students so as to involve all the students in the study.

Of the total 54 students, for exercise I, the average pretest score of the study group was 1.7 while that of the control was 2.0 which were comparable (Student's t-test P = 0.75). The average posttest score of study group obtained was 15.7 while that of control group 8.4 (Student's t-test P < 0.001) [Table 1]. When the posttest scores of the two groups were compared there was significant difference in the two scores (unpaired Student's t-test P < 0.01) [Table 2].
Table 1: Exercise I

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Table 2: Exercise I

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Analysis of pre- and post-test scores in the study and control groups

Similarly, in exercise II, the pretest score of study group was 3.3 while that of the control was 3.1 which were also comparable (Student's t-test P = 0.80). The average posttest sore of study group was 15.4 and that of the control group was 9.6 (Student's t-test P < 0.001) [Table 3] then when the posttest score were compared of both the groups it was found that there was significant difference in the scores (unpaired Student's t-test P < 0.01) [Table 4].
Table 3: Exercise II

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Table 4: Posttest scores in Exercise II

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Further the feedback was obtained from all the 54 students participated in the study. The analysis of close ended questions from the student showed that 12 (22.2%) student strongly agreed and 29 (53.7%) student agreed that syndicate group study creates interest for self-learning. Forty-one (75. 92%) (26 [48.1%] agreed and 15 [27.7%] strongly agreed) that syndicate group study helps in better understanding of the topic. For helpful in enhancing the performance in their examination, the feedback from the student was 30 (55.5%) students agreed while 12 (22.2%) students strongly agreed for this point. Forty-two (77.7%) (25 [46.3%] students agreed and 12 [22.2%] student strongly agreed) students were in favor that syndicate group created enthusiasm and encouragement for self-learning. Moreover, the response regarding whether this activity should be incorporated in practical class teaching showed 21 (38.9%) agreed while 19 (35.1%) strongly agreed [Table 5].
Table 5: Students' perceptions-analysis of close-ended questions

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Regarding the feedback of open-ended questions, the opinion regarding the advantages and disadvantages are as follows [Table 6].
Table 6: Feedback from open-ended questions

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  1. Some students are not able to express their view properly
  2. Topic allotment should be in advance
  3. Syndicate group study should be continued.

  Discussion Top

According to Surgenor,[4] the term syndicate is used to describe activities undertaken by groups of students working to a brief under their own direction. Syndicate learning method offers various intellectual benefits for students such as problem definition and identification, data gathering and interpretation, problem-solving and critical analysis, management plan, group leadership, and communication skills.[5] Successful teaching requires that, the teachers are able to address learner's needs and understand the variations in learners' styles and approaches. Encouraging students to take more responsibility becomes more self-motivated and essentially adopt a more autonomous approach to their learning are crucial “graduate attributes.”[6] Teachers can fulfill these requirements by creating an optimal teaching learning environment by utilizing a variety of teaching methods and teaching styles. The role of a teacher is to provide an optimum environment in which the student is able to actively engage with subject matter to learn it. Davis[7] hints that some group members may be reluctant participants and uncommitted to the aims of the group and the topic. He goes on to suggest that there is an inverse relationship between task complexity and individuals' noncontribution, because the assessment takes place at group level and there is reduction of individual responsibility.[7]

In the present study, most students enjoyed their experiences of syndicate learning and insisted to cover the other major topics in the same manner as it helps to retain the subject for longer period. Student described being more engaged and motivated in studying the topic by their own and then discussing it in front of the other students and the teacher and clearing their doubts then and there.

The feedback from the student suggested that the syndicate learning is an effective method of achieving the desired level of knowledge or beyond. Syndicate type of learning teaching method can also identify the potential learner by the facilitator and thus have chance to help the particular student to learn and understand the subject. In the present study, the outcome includes enhanced student confidence, motivation, engagement, interaction, and enjoyment. On the basis of these positive findings along with the reports from the students that learning in group enhance their preparation for future study work and there is an appeal that syndicate teaching learning can offer some valuable benefits to the undergraduate medical curriculum. Broadly speaking, small groups are better than large groups at promoting thought and developing attitudes and values, and as effective, but not as efficient, as large group teaching, at imparting information.[8] Sessions of small group learning can be evaluated by examining products, such as achievement and student satisfaction, or by analyzing and reflecting on the processes of interaction in the group. If one wants to develop the communication and cognitive skills of student of the group, then studies of the processes are more appropriate and important than product studies.

Further research is required to know the effectiveness of syndicate learning in improving student performance in their university examination.[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15]

  Conclusion Top

Syndicate groups are where participants are asked to prepare (individually or in pairs) on a preselected topic around a theme and report back at the syndicate group. Again, this needs to be well facilitated, everyone needs to have prepared and be willing to contribute, and time needs to be set aside for discussion. Small group teaching is a valuable strategy in enhancing students' performance in the clinical settings.

Take home message

Syndicate small group teaching can be applied to other clinical disciplines of the medical curriculum for the production of safe and clinically competent graduates. Further research is required to prove it is effectively in other branches of medical subjects.


In this study, the sample size was very small and only two practical classes could be engaged for this syndicate group study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Sethuraman KR. Teaching-learning methods-II. In: Book Ananthkrishnan N, Sethuraman KR, Kumar S. Medical Education Principles and Practice. 2nd ed.. Santosh Kumar Alumni Association of National Teacher Training Centre. India: NTTC, JIPMER, Pondicherry; 2000. p. 51-60.  Back to cited text no. 1
Amin Z, Eng KH. Book Basics in Medical Education National University of Singapore. Singapore: Published by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. Reprint; 2007. p. 99-139.  Back to cited text no. 2
McKeachie WJ, Svincki M. McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 3
Surgenor P. Large and Small Group Teaching. In Teaching Toolkit, UCD Teaching and Learning Resources. Available from: http://www.ucd.ie/teaching2010. [Last accessed on 2020 Feb 23].  Back to cited text no. 4
McKerlie RA, Cameron DA, Sherriff A, Bovil C. Student perception of syndicate tutor-less group work within an undergraduate dental curriculum. Eur J Dent Educ 2012;16:e122-12.  Back to cited text no. 5
Quality Assurance Agency (Scotland). Graduates for the 21st Century: Integrating the Enhancement Themes; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 6
Davis WM. Groupwork as a form of assessment: Common problems and recommended solutions. Higher Educ 2009:58;563-84.  Back to cited text no. 7
Bligh D. 2000. What's the Point in Discussion? Exeter, UK: Intellect Books; 2020  Back to cited text no. 8
Niranjane P, Diagavane P, Shelke S. Interprofessional Education: Need and Implications for Dentistry in India. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2019;14:272-5. Available from : https://doi.org/10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_70_19. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 9
Debroy A, Ingole A, Mudey A. Teachers' Perceptions on Student Evaluation of Teaching as a Tool for Faculty Development and Quality Assurance in Medical Education. J Educ Health Promot 2019;8;272-5. Available from : https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_47_19. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 10
Jagzape A, Jagzape T, Pathak S. Medical Education Terminologies: Do These Really Percolate to the Level of Medical Students? A Survey. J Clin Diagn Res 2017;11:JC01–5. Available from : https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2017/26582.10631. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 11
Jain V, Waghmare L, Shrivastav T, Mahakalkar C. SNAPPS Facilitates Clinical Reasoning in Outpatient Settings. Educ Health: Change in Learning and Practice 2018;31:59-60. Available from : https://doi.org/10.4103/1357-6283.239052. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 12
Patil D, Naqvi WM. COVID-19 and Education System: Impact of Current Pandemic on Adaptive Learning Strategies in Medical Education System. Int J Res Pharma Sci 2020;11:403-6. Available from : https://doi.org/10.26452/ijrps.v11iSPL1.2736. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 13
Srivastava TK, Mishra V, Waghmare LS. Formative Assessment Classroom Techniques (FACts) for Better Learning in Pre-Clinical Medical Education: A Controlled Trial. J Clin Diagn Res 2018;12: JC01–8. Available from : https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2018/35622.11969. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 14
Srivastava TK, Waghmare LS, Rawekar AT. Transition to Competency-Based Medical Education: A Proposed Rollout Model. Int J Cur Res Rev 2020;12:117-22. Available from: https://doi.org/10.31782/IJCRR.2020.121425. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 15


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]


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