Shifting students and faculty to a PBL curriculum: attitudes changed and lessons learned.

Bernstein, P; Tipping, J; Bercovitz, K; Skinner, H A
Academic Medicine:
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BACKGROUND. The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine is implementing a new undergraduate curriculum that emphasizes active, self-directed learning. The aims of this study were to (1) evaluate shifts in students' attitudes after initial direct experience with problem-based learning (PBL), (2) describe faculty experiences, and (3) develop guidelines for further implementation of PBL. METHOD. Questionnaires were administered at the beginning of the first PBL session and at the close of the last session (five weeks later) to the 250 second-year students in 1992-93 and to their 15 faculty tutors. Quantitative data were analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance and univariate tests. Open-ended questions were categorized based on common patterns that emerged. RESULTS. Of the 250 students, 196 (78%) responded to the pretest, and 207 (83%) responded to the posttest. There was a statistically significant shift in the students' perceptions from pretest to posttest in agreeing that PBL is more effective than traditional teaching methods (increasing from 38% to 52%). The students rated traditional methods as better for knowledge acquisition, whereas PBL methods were rated better for improving teamwork and doctor-patient relationships. At pretest, the most common themes concerned a perceived danger that PBL would result in knowledge gaps, reinforce the wrong information, and make inefficient use of valuable time. Perceived advantages of PBL included that it is more stimulating and enjoyable, and it teaches students how to learn rather than to memorize. At posttest, there was an increase in favorable comments by the students. Virtually all of the attitudes expressed by the students were shared by the faculty. In addition, at pretest the faculty were anxious about the perceived lack of structure in PBL. CONCLUSION. Direct experience with PBL led to more favorable attitudes among the students and faculty. Recommendations are suggested for other schools and programs seeking to implement PBL curricula.

(C) 1995 Association of American Medical Colleges