To examine process factors that either facilitate or inhibit learning medical ethics during case-based learning.Methods
A qualitative research approach using microanalysis of transcribed videotaped discussions of three consecutive small-group learning (SGL) sessions on medical ethics teaching (MET) for three groups, each with 10 students.Results
This research effort revealed 12 themes of learning strategies, divided into 6 coping and 6 evasive strategies. Cognitive-based strategies were found to relate to Kamin's model of critical thinking in medical education, thereby supporting our distinction between the themes of coping and evasive strategies. The findings also showed that cognitive efforts as well as emotional strategies are involved in discussions of ethical dilemmas. Based on Kamin's model and the constructivist learning theory, an examination of the different themes within the two learning strategies—coping and evasive—revealed that these strategies may be understood as corresponding to process factors either facilitating or inhibiting MET in SGL, respectively.Conclusions
Our classification offers a more nuanced observation, specifically geared to pinpointing the desired and less desired process factors in the learning involved in MET in the SGL environment. Two key advantages of this observation are: (1) it brings to the forefront process factors that may inhibit and not merely facilitate MET in SGL and (2) it acknowledges the existence of emotional and not just cognitive process factors. Further enhancement of MET in SGL may thus be achieved based on these observations.