Vertically integrated shared learning models in general practice: a qualitative study

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Publication details

Ahern, CM, van de Mortel, TF, Silberberg, PL, Barling, JA & Pit, SW 2013, 'Vertically integrated shared learning models in general practice: a qualitative study', BMC Family Practice, vol. 14, no. 144.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed



Background: The numbers of learners seeking placements in general practice is rapidly increasing as an ageing workforce impacts on General Practitioner availability. The traditional master apprentice model that involves one-to-one teaching is therefore leading to supervision capacity constraints. Vertically integrated (VI) models may provide a solution. Shared learning, in which multiple levels of learners are taught together in the same session, is one such model. This study explored stakeholders’ perceptions of shared learning in general practices in northern NSW, Australia.

Methods: A qualitative research method, involving individual semi-structured interviews with GP supervisors, GP registrars, Prevocational General Practice Placements Program trainees, medical students and practice managers situated in nine teaching practices, was used to investigate perceptions of shared learning practices. A thematic analysis was conducted on 33 transcripts by three researchers.

Results: Participants perceived many benefits to shared learning including improved collegiality, morale, financial rewards, and better sharing of resources, knowledge and experience. Additional benefits included reduced social and professional isolation, and workload. Perceived risks of shared learning included failure to meet the individual needs of all learners. Shared learning models were considered unsuitable when learners need to: receive remediation, address a specific deficit or immediate learning needs, learn communication or procedural skills, be given personalised feedback or be observed by their supervisor during consultations. Learners’ acceptance of shared learning appeared partially dependent on their supervisors’ small group teaching and facilitation skills.

Conclusions: Shared learning models may partly address supervision capacity constraints in general practice, and bring multiple benefits to the teaching environment that are lacking in the one-to-one model. However, the risks need to be managed appropriately, to ensure learning needs are met for all levels of learners. Supervisors also need to consider that one-to-one teaching may be more suitable in some instances. Policy makers, medical educators and GP training providers need to ensure that quality learning outcomes are achieved for all levels of learners. A mixture of one-to-one and shared learning would address the benefits and downsides of each model thereby maximising learners’ learning outcomes and experiences.

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