“Doughnut Rounds” (after Fleiszer et al., 1997)

A great teaching method that engages students with literature, and that Cathy Bovill recently introduced me to, are “doughnut rounds”: Students (or workshop participants) are asked to read an article and formulate a certain number of questions, that are then discussed in groups. This leads to people being able to fill in gaps in their understanding (for example due to superficial reading…) and to general engagement with the topic.

The self-directed learning method “doughnut rounds”* was published by Fleiszer et al. (1997), where they used it in medical teaching. In weekly meetings, groups of four to seven participants discuss articles of their own choice. To prepare for a meeting, they all read the same material and formulate 12 questions about it (and the authors recommend sticking to 12 questions, even though only 3 or 4 per person might be used in the end): 3-4 about “basic concepts”, 2 or 3 “quick snappers” that require only yes/no or true/false responses, and the rest “mind benders”, that are intended to dig deeper into the topic or to synthesize several aspects (but all responses must be able to be given just based on reading the materials). Students bring their questions in writing to make sure they aren’t wasting time in the meeting by trying to come up with questions. Questions are then asked by all participants taking turns such that all participants answer an equal amount of questions in a “game show” atmosphere (moderated by the facilitator), where scores (0 to 2 points) are awarded per answer, and kept record of on a blackboard.

The authors report great enthusiasm (“which seems to be aimed primarily at finding weaknesses in the knowledge of their colleagues”, but whatever works!) and meetings often running overtime because participants are so engaged and don’t want to stop.

In their evaluation, the authors get very positive responses, especially to the aspect of preparing questions themselves as a tool for learning, and to choosing the topics of the meetings themselves. The game show aspect (which I personally would find off-putting) also receives positive ratings, participants see it as healthy, fun, and motivating. And participants report learning a lot, both in absolute terms and relative to the time spent on the exercise.

I have heard so many positive things about my colleagues experiences with this method, I definitely want to try it for myself! How about you? Will you start a “doughnut round”, too? :-)

*so called not because of the holes in people’s knowledge, but because of the doughnuts that the facilitator provides for participants

David Fleiszer, Tim Fleiszer & Ruth Russell (1997) Doughnut Rounds: A self- directed learning approach to teaching critical care in surgery, Medical Teacher, 19:3, 190-193, DOI: 10.3109/01421599709019380

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  1. Pingback: How can we adapt a teaching method for our purposes? The "Doughnut rounds" example - Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching

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