A “New” Teaching Method: The Digital Carousel

By: Alex Chorley (@chorleymd) and Jonathan Sherbino (@sherbino)

Educational Problem:

Engaging a large group of residents at their academic conference (i.e. academic day) is always a challenge, particularly when the group includes a spectrum of junior and senior residents with varying levels of experience. Trying divide a group of 40+ residents into small learning teams requires a plan for facilitation, particularly if you have only one instructor.

Innovative Solution:

During our academic conference, we modified the carousel technique  to teach the topic of pelvic trauma.

Prior to the session, peer-review resources (published review articles, high quality websites and podcasts) were identified and distributed to the residents to assist in their preparation.  During the session, the forty residents were split into 8 small teams with an equitable distribution of junior and senior residents.  The teams were then asked to develop the best answer for 8 key pelvic trauma questions. The teams were staggered in the order of questions to be answered first. Finally, each team rotated through all the questions at timed intervals, adding and editing the answer provided by the prior team to reach a consensus “best” answer.

Education Theories involved:

Resources Required:

Time in classroom: approximately 90 minutes


  • High quality resources related to the topic of choice
  • classroomEmail to residents containing the learning objectives for the talk, the recommended resources, and the questions that will be answered on the day of the conference.
  • GoogleDocs or equivalent platform so that each group can collaborate on a shared, real time edited document that can be easily projected during the conference.
  • Computer and internet access for each group

How to do it:

  1. Pre-class preparation: A few days in advance, the residents are provided with key resources and the questions to be answered at the conference. It is expected that they will read ahead of time and come prepared to discuss and create “best” answers.
  1. Digital carousel group work (60 min): Residents are divided into teams of 3-5 (one question per group) with an equal distribution of junior and senior residents. Each team is provided with a different starting question and the sequence of subsequent questions to ensure orderly progression. The links to the series of GoogleDocs (one for each question) are distributed via email. The teams are allotted approximately 5 minutes to answer each question. (Flex time should be built into the schedule to accommodate instructions and carify questions about the process.) A group must advance to the next question when the time period expires. This ensures the groups don’t overlap with each others work. The facilitator notifies the group when it is time to advance.  For the first few questions, the groups are primarily creating new answers.  Toward the end, groups are mainly editing and peer-reviewing the answers that had been previously created.
  1. Instructor Synopsis and Review (30 min): The instructor opens the GoogleDocs that has been created and projects them for the large group. The answer to each question is reviewed and summarized, with the addition of clinical pearls by content experts (staff physicians) in attendance. A “best” answer for each question is created and digitally distributed for future study and reference.

Feedback & Conclusions

There is a definite trade off between allowing sufficient time to answer/edit the question and creating a time-pressured situation to keep learners focused and engaged.  This technique was extremely effective for facilitating multiple diverse groups with only one instructor.  Not only did it engage the residents in active and collaborative learning, they created high-quality answers that will be useful for them in the future.