The teaching of clinical epidemiology to second-year students at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine is carried out using journal articles to illustrate concepts. Because of the need for discussion, the instructors believed that the concepts of epidemiology might best be learned by, and that greater satisfaction with the learning process might be derived from, small group discussions rather than large lecture sessions. To test these hypotheses, students were randomized into either one of two discussion groups or a larger lecture group. The course handouts and text were identical, and the three instructors presented the same material successively to each group. In the final examination, all three groups answered approximately 26 of 36 questions correctly. Seventy percent of students responded to a questionnaire at the end of the course. There were no significant differences between the discussion and lecture groups in their ability to read and understand medical articles. However, the discussion group students were more favorable in their assessment of the success of the teaching method and in their perception of the importance and overall quality of the course. While there may be little difference in the short-term retention of epidemiological principles between the two teaching methods, the greater satisfaction reported by the students in the small groups will stimulate us to try to provide that type of learning environment in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-51
Number of pages2
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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