This blog article is brought to you by Dr. Michelle Gibson, Year 1 Director, and Coordinator of our FSGL stream in pre-clerkship.

Why should you be an FSGL Tutor?

But first … what is FSGL anyway?

FSGL is Facilitated Small Group Learning, a modified form of Problem-Based-Learning (PBL), adapted for the curriculum at Queen’s University. In Terms 2, 3, and 4, students work in small groups of 6 or 7, with one tutor, over the course of the term, to learn from cases linked to their courses.

FSGL is like PBL in that the tutors are not there to be content experts, but rather as “facilitators” of student learning. In general, students receive the first part of a case, and they work together to identify what their learning needs are. The case is usually that of a patient with an as-yet undifferentiated presentation, and the students work through it together, gradually getting more information about the case. It is, in educational terms, enquiry-based learning, where the students are (mostly) driving the learning.

So what does an FSGL tutor do?

They are there to help the group really delve into the case, to probe student understanding, to help the students with their clinical reasoning, and, really, to help students understand what a doctor does. They are not teaching about the intricacies of interpreting ECGs, for example, but rather, to challenge the group about their approach to a differential diagnosis in a patient with syncope (with the help of a trusty written tutor guide…)

In addition, tutors are essential in observing individual student contributions to the group, and the group dynamic over the course of the term. They can help the group form a high-functioning team, and they provide feedback to individual students about their performance. Twice a term, the tutors will review peer-feedback and self-assessment data from their students, and provide mid-term and end-of-term feedback to the students about their progress that term.

Why do tutors like FSGL?

In the 5 years since I’ve taken over this part of the curriculum, I hear the same comments over and over. Tutors enjoy working with a stable group of students over the course of a term, and getting to know them. They appreciate watching their students grow in their skills, as they strive to become doctors. They even admit to enjoying the learning they do about material they don’t see everyday.

What is involved in being an FSGL tutor?

Tutors commit to at least one term (timelines below) for one afternoon a week, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. We understand that tutors have other commitments, so we accommodate tutors being away up to twice a term by providing substitute tutors, and 3 absences might be accommodated in certain circumstances. This includes participating in an orientation on the first afternoon of the term. You will receive a tutor binder, with all the cases and the tutor guides, and learn about how to be an effective tutor.

Tutors will learn how to provide constructive narrative feedback to students about students’ own learning goals and their progress over the term.

I might be interested, but I have questions – what should I do?

Email me at , and I’d be happy to chat.

Final words:
When I was asked to take over the old PBL by Dr. Sanfilippo, many people (myself included), really wondered if we should keep it in the curriculum. Through the helpful feedback provided by students and those they rated as excellent tutors, I have tried to keep what was working, and fix what was not. If you did PBL more than 5 years ago, I can assure you it’s a new creature now. While it’s not perfect, it is mostly fun, and the students really appreciate their tutors- they tell me so all the time. And, as one new tutor told me this year: “This is the best experience I’ve had in undergraduate medicine at Queen’s in 10 years.” I would be delighted if this would be the case for other new tutors too, so please feel free to email me with questions!


Fall 2013:
Term 3, second year med students (experienced FSGL-ers) – cases are based on mostly cardio-resp, renal, and endocrinology material. Runs from September to the 1st week in December. Wednesday afternoons, from 1:30 to 4:30.

Winter 2014: (Two terms)
Term 2, first-year med students (novice FSGL-ers) – cases are based on therapeutics, pathology, immunology, hematology, geriatrics, MSK, and pediatrics. Runs from January to April or the first week of May. Monday afternoons, from 1:30 to 4:30, with many Mondays off, including Family Day, 2 weeks around March Break, and Easter Monday.

Term 4, second year med students (very experienced FSGL-ers) – cases are based on OB/Gyn, GI/Gen Surgery, neuro, ophthalmology, and psychiatry. Wednesday afternoons, from 1:30 to 4:30 with 2 weeks off around March Break.