October 2011


Small group learning

A general practice program

Volume 40, No.10, October 2011 Pages 831-834

Klaus Stelter

Silvana Marangoni


Divisions of general practice have a major role in supporting continuing medical education for general practitioners. One option is small group learning (SGL), which requires GPs getting together to plan, organise their learning and to evaluate their learning outcomes.


This article describes the development and evaluation of an SGL program facilitated by the St George Division of General Practice in New South Wales.


In 2009, 10 monthly SGL groups were running, involving a total of 130 GPs (59% of 2009 division membership) of whom 107 GPs completed the evaluation questionnaire. On the criterion of ‘meeting learning needs’ 82% rated SGL as very good and 18% as good; on the criterion of ‘increase in knowledge’ 90% confirmed specific new knowledge. On ‘implementing a change in clinical practice’ 66% of written responses directly attributed change of practice to the SGL sessions. The SGL program was well attended and rated positively. This may reflect that the groups were effectively organised, allowed GPs to decide their own learning needs, and that the group process engendered a culture of trust and collegiality that overcame reluctance to reveal knowledge gaps.

Continuing medical education is an expectation of general practitioners to maintain their vocational registration and clinical competence. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has promoted the idea of lifelong learning and there is a range of quality improvement and continuing professional development (QI&CPD) options available to GPs, including large group events. Divisions of general practice have a major role in supporting QI&CPD (known as QA&CPD until 2010) for GPs. The St George Division of General Practice (Sydney, New South Wales) noted that attendance at large group events had declined and feedback from the GPs was that such events did not necessarily meet their individual learning needs.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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