Effectiveness of Problem-based Learning Activities in the Undergraduate Classroom Lauren M. Dahlquist
Origin of Problem-based Learning• Problem-based learning (PBL) began in 1969 in McMaster University in Ontario, Canada• One of McMaster’s authorities on PBL states that PBL is any learning environment in which the problem drives the learning, and motivation for this pedagogical method stems from the human desire for problem resolution
Where is PBL now?• After the founding of PBL, it spread to several continents• PBL is largely focused in graduate schools, more specifically, in science and pre-health courses• Research has been conducted on PBL and its effect on material comprehension, student collaboration, and critical thinking skills; little research has been conducted regarding the effectiveness of PBL
Our Role• We aimed to determine the effectiveness of PBL exercises in – Understanding – Learning retention – Communication skills – Inter-personal relationships• We examined the effectiveness and usefulness of PBL exercises using pre-health students at the undergraduate level
We hypothesized that students would gain a greater understanding of material presented in the PBL format.
Materials and Methods Students are presented with a pre-test Students are presented with a problemStudents meet and discuss with peers to solve the presented problemStudents complete a worksheet dissimilar to pre- and post-test
After meeting, students take a post-test identical to the pre-test Students attend didactic lecture session Surveys are administered Material retention test administered 30-60 days later*All post-test scores of PBL were compared with assessments from material taught via traditional lecture
Results of Student Participation by Grade Level N=91
Results• n=91 (98.9% participation)• Pre-test average was 31.9% (n=4 PBLs with 98.9% participation each PBL)• Post-test average was 90%• We observed that students had a previous understanding of common topics (i.e. HIV) and as a consequence scored higher on pre-tests (50%) compared with nascent topics (i.e. flow cytometry; 5%) • Post-test scores were consistently high-no matter the topic.
Figure 1. Student knowledge before (pre-test) and after (post-test) a problem-based learning activity. Students were given thesame pre- and post-test as a method of discerning knowledgeacquired solely from the PBL activity. Panels A-D are studentperformance as measured by average percentage on four PBLactivities. Error bars represent standard error of the mean. A,PBL on tetanus; B, PBL on Ebola; C, PBL on Humanimmunodeficiency virus (HIV); D, PBL on Flow cytometry. A-D(n=91), E (n=364), and F (n=91)
A B 100 100 90 90 % Average % Average 80 80 p<0.001 70 70 60 p<0.001 60 50 50 40 40 30 30 20 20 10 10 0 0 Pre-test Post-test Pre-test Post-testC 100 D 90 100 90% Average 80 70 p<0.001 % Average 80 70 p<0.001 60 50 60 40 50 30 40 20 30 10 20 0 10 0 Pre-test Post-test Pre-test Post-test
Results of Material Retention• Students answered 78.6% (SD = 0.07) of questions on information taught using PBL correctly on an assessment 60 days after PBL presentation• Students answered only 60% of questions on topics presented in a traditional lecture format correctly n=91
Results of Survey• 53 students (57.6%) responded to an optional survey positively about PBL use• Students enjoyed PBL activities as a supplement to didactic lecture and lab• The active participation of students relied heavily on the active engagement of facilitators
Limitations• Time required by instructor, including creation of a PBL exercise• Logistics such as time and space available• Will these results be similar with different courses? With different student majors or non-majors?
Conclusion The data generated indicate that PBL exercises are beneficial as a supplementto traditional lecture in an undergraduate setting of pre-health students Now, the authors would like to thank…
• The authors thank the Department of Biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for supporting this research project.• Thanks also to all of the student participants in the study.• Thanks to Drs. W. Tapprich, C. Rauter, and J. White for insightful suggestions for the study and the IRB process (IRB 548-12-EX).• The authors acknowledge the Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for the support with UCRCA funding (L. Dahlquist).• This background is provided by The Guardian (2011). The graphics are provided by Lyles, J. (2012) and The Extension (2010).• Thanks to Jamie Knehans, Dr. Abby Stanger, Dakota Ahrendsen, and Josh Larson for accepting publication of their photo.