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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22-28

Revitalizing journal clubs: Millennial perspectives for enhancing student learning and engagement

1 Department of Optometry, Manipal College of Health Professions, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Microbiology, Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Centre for Continuing Education and Interprofessional Development, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission03-Mar-2020
Date of Decision30-May-2020
Date of Acceptance29-Mar-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Ciraj Ali Mohammed
Centre for Continuing Education and Interprofessional Development, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_69_20

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Background: Current trends in health professions education are aligned to meet the needs of the millennial learner. The aim of this study was to identify learners' perceptions of an ongoing journal club (JC) activity in the optometry curriculum and evaluate the utility and efficiency of this method in promoting student learning. Methods: A qualitative approach with a phenomenological research design was adopted. The perceptions of undergraduate and postgraduate optometry students about JCs were captured using focus group discussions. A narrative thematic analysis was done using the verbatim transcripts and moderator's notes. Results are reported using “consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research” guidelines. Results: A total of 33 optometry students participated in the study. Data analysis revealed three major themes related to (i) The ongoing practice of JC, (ii) student perceptions of JC and its relevance in facilitating student learning, and (iii) suggestions for modification of JC for achieving optimal educational outcomes. Discussion: Student feedback indicates that an instructional redesigning of JC is necessary, considering the characteristics and expectations of the current generation of learners and the rapid strides made in the field of educational technology. The recommendations provided are likely to resurrect an age-old approach that still has educational relevance if blended with collaborative learning formats and appropriate technology.

Keywords: Educational technology, health professions education, journal clubs, optometry, pedagogy

How to cite this article:
Rajhans V, Mohammed CA, Ve RS, Prabhu A. Revitalizing journal clubs: Millennial perspectives for enhancing student learning and engagement. Educ Health 2021;34:22-8

How to cite this URL:
Rajhans V, Mohammed CA, Ve RS, Prabhu A. Revitalizing journal clubs: Millennial perspectives for enhancing student learning and engagement. Educ Health [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 1];34:22-8. Available from:

  Background Top

With changing patterns of health care delivery, practitioners are expected to follow evidence-based practices. In addition to scientific knowledge and skills, they are expected to possess skills such as collaborative decision-making, teamwork, evidence-based practice, and effective communication. Curricular reforms in health professions' education currently focus on addressing the needs of millennial learners, who are more interested in the application of knowledge than its mere acquisition.[1]

Journal clubs (JCs) have been in existence for more than a century. JCs inform the learner with current knowledge through research articles and also help to develop skills essential to appraise those. Even today they offer a feasible framework for integrating generic skills outlined in the health professions curriculum.[1],[2],[3] Activities in JCs are formulated based on intended learning objectives (ILOs) which are aligned with program outcomes. JC objectives have primarily focused on the enhancement of generic skills such as scientific reading and upgrading knowledge specifically in the context of professional practice and related to statistics, epidemiology, and research methodology.[4] In addition, skills of critical appraisal, problem-solving, and lifelong learning are addressed in these clubs. Of late, as evidenced by the literature, principles of evidence-based practice, patient-centered care, and collaborative learning also figure into structured JC meetings.[5],[6]

The approach in JC meetings follows a traditional path, starting from finding an article in the area of interest to discussing the results to solve a problem/clinical case under consideration.[1],[2] There is no gold standard method of conducting a JC and it needs to be customized to achieve ILOs.[3] Therefore we decided to evaluate JCs in the context of the current learning environment which includes millennial learners.

This study aimed to:

  1. Identify students' perceptions of ongoing JC activity in the optometry curriculum and assess its effectiveness in achieving intended learning outcomes
  2. Gather suggestions from learners that help in revitalizing the JC activities to promote student engagement and learning.

  Methods Top

Ethics statement

Institutional ethics committee of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, approved this study (No: IEC327/2017).

Study design

A qualitative approach using focus group discussions (FGD) was employed. The summary of the methodology is reported using “consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research” guidelines in [Table 1].
Table 1: Summary: study methodology

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  Objectives of focus group discussion Top

  1. Appraise the currently practiced method employed for conducting the JC
  2. Assess student perceptions about the conduct of JC
  3. Gather suggestions for modifying the current format of JC for maximizing learning and student engagement.

  Results Top

A total of 33 optometry students (26 undergraduates and 7 postgraduates) were enrolled in this study. Qualitative analysis of the data identified three main themes, namely (i) the ongoing practice of JC, (ii) student perceptions about the relevance of JC in facilitating learning, and (iii) suggestions for modification of JC for achieving optimal outcomes.

Students reported on regularity in weekly JC meetings on a predetermined date and time with a fairly good attendance. The active role of senior students in each step starting from the choice of the article though presentation and discussion were also acknowledged. However, limited use of technology, lack of alignment between discussed topics and curriculum, minimal knowledge of research methodology/statistics, and lack of critical appraisal guidelines were reported as barriers for engagement and learning by all groups. [Table 2] provides the summary of the results of FGD sessions with representative quotes.
Table 2: Summary: thematic analysis of focus group discussions

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  Discussion Top

Studies evaluating the perception of millennial learners about JC in the curriculum are sparse. Hence, this study is important in the context of health professions education, identifying major barriers for the conduct of JC in its current format and providing suggestions that can help revamp this traditional approach to suit the millennials and their educational environment. As mentioned, this study identified three themes based on data analysis which are deliberated here.

The ongoing practice of journal club

JCs work on the principles of adult learning. They involve multiple presentation formats with a focus on the active involvement of the learner. Factors like the incorporation of pretraining sessions, a reward system for learners, and conducting sessions on weekdays, influence the outcomes in a positive manner.[4],[7] In our study, attendance credit and feedback to the presenter were identified as facilitating factors. However, students reported that JC was perceived as a less important academic activity being conducted on a weekend afternoon. The selection of an appropriate working day and provision of the conducive environment seem to be important factors governing the conduct of an effective JC.

JCs must encourage active learning. Millennials being tech-savvy, the use of appropriate technology is inevitable in enhancing their learning.[8] This study reported limited use of technology, primarily for the circulation of the chosen article and presentation of its summary with a lack of counterchecks for its utilization by learners. Presentations were allotted on a rotational basis to ensure equal distribution of learning opportunities. Minimal interventions were adopted for making the matter interesting and engaging to the learner. The role of technology cannot be overemphasized in the present learning environment. The use of learning management systems and student response systems is crucial for invoking interest and enhancing engagement among millennial learners.

Student perceptions about relevance of journal club in learning

Variety, relevance to practice, and applicability of topics are contributing factors towards the success of JC, which are expected to be student-centric.[3],[9] Our study found that the selected topics were relevant to intern and PG students, while undergraduate students perceived it beyond their scope of learning. The discussions were led by mentors and PG students in the form of a question-answer session. Undergraduate students remained largely mute, passive, and reported frequent inability to comprehend the full article. This was cited as another reason for disengagement. Students felt the JC session was actually an “individual learning activity” rather than a “collaborative learning inquiry,” despite having a mixed group of learners.

The primary goal of an academic JC is to teach students the skills of critical appraisal and problem-solving.[2],[10] A session of JC involved an article and a clinical case, which were deliberately independent of each other. Discussions, more oriented towards the theoretical aspects of the article, reinforced mere recall of basic concepts. Further, the absence of critical appraisal guidelines contributed towards disinterest, disenchantment, and therefore disengagement among learners, and JCs were perceived as yet another teaching session, without having addressed the objectives of critical appraisal or knowledge translation. Introducing critical appraisal guidelines, encouraging the process of clinical reasoning in the context of appraised evidence are likely to enhance learner's problem-solving skills.

Suggestions for modification of journal club

Recommendations for planning and conducting JC across health sciences are numerous.[1],[2],[3],[9] We discuss learners' recommendations which deserve a special mention in reforming the existing framework for enhanced student learning and engagement. Student's suggestions for better planning are listed in [Table 3] with possible explanations for execution.
Table 3: Students suggestions for better planning and execution of journal clubs

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Limitations of the study and future scope for research

We have gathered students' perceptions from one institution involving only a single department. Collecting perceptions of learners from other disciplines can make this data more valid and generalizable. In addition, faculty perceptions may also help in identifying facilitating and hindering factors in the execution of JC. Hence, further research designed as a multi-centric study involving multiple stakeholders can provide more insights that help in improve JC practices.

JCs as a pedagogic approach will lose educational significance if not customized to the needs of millennial learners and the professions they practice. We conclude that instructional redesigning of JC is necessary, considering the characteristics and expectations of the learners and the rapid strides made in the domain of educational technology. The recommendations provided are likely to resurrect an age-old approach that still has relevance if blended with appropriate technology and collaborative learning formats.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Wenke RJ, Thomas R, Hughes I, Mickan S. The effectiveness and feasibility of TREAT (Tailoring Research Evidence and Theory) journal clubs in allied health: A randomised controlled trial. BMC Med Educ 2018;18:104.  Back to cited text no. 1
Al Achkar M. Redesigning journal club in residency. Adv Med Educ Pract 2016;7:317-20.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sadeghi A, Biglari M, Nasseri-Moghaddam S, Soltani A. Medical journal club as a new method of education: Modifications for improvment. Arch Iran Med 2016;19:556-60.  Back to cited text no. 3
Deenadayalan Y, Karen GS, Prior M, Kumar S. How to run an effective journal club: A systematic review. Eval Clin Pract 2008;14:898-911.  Back to cited text no. 4
Mullen SJ, Sabri K. Role of journal club in Canadian ophthalmology residency training: a national survey of program directors. Can J Ophthalmol 2016;51:226-31.  Back to cited text no. 5
Kyriakoulis K, Patelarou A, Laliotis A, Wan AC, Matalliotakis M, Tsiou C, et al. Educational strategies for teaching evidence-based practice to undergraduate health students: Systematic review. J Educ Eval Health Prof 2016;13:34.  Back to cited text no. 6
Sánchez-Mendiola M, Morales-Castillo D, Torruco-García U, Varela-Ruiz M. Eight years' experience with a medical education journal club in Mexico: A quasi-experimental one-group study. BMC Med Educ 2015;15:222.  Back to cited text no. 7
Roberts DH, Newman LR, Schwartzstein RM. Twelve tips for facilitating Millennials' learning. Med Teach 2012;34:274-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
So E, Hyer CF, Richardson MP, Thomas RC. What is the current role and factors for success of the journal club in podiatric foot and ankle surgery residency training programs ? J Foot Ankle Surg 2018;56:1009-18.  Back to cited text no. 9
Lai NM, Nalliah S. Information-seeking practices of senior medical students: The impact of an evidence-based medicine training programme. Educ Health (Abingdon) 2010;23:151.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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