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Suffice to say that it enables the investigator to check to what extent the actual data fit his theoretical model and to estimate the strengths of the causal relations hypothesized. Figure 2 displays the results of our analyses. They have a maximum value of 1.

The actual values represent the strengths of the causal paths. Most of the paths coefficients found can be considered reasonably high. This is in particular the case for de paths emerging from the quality-of-problems factor. Problems seem indeed central to the learning in problem-based curricula. Compare their influence with the influence of the tutor. Tutor performance only directly affects group functioning; all other influence is indirect, namely via group functioning.

Problems, by contrast, influence almost all elements of the learning in a direct fashion. These findings imply two things for the implementation of problem-based learning in a school. The first is that poor problems present at least an equally serious hazard to student learning as the presence of a poor tutor. And the second is, that improving the quality of problems is bound to have beneficial effects on learning at least to the same extent as extending tutor training activities to improve tutor performance.

In addition, experience shows that it proves easier to improve on problem quality than to ensure consistently good performance of tutors. To what extent does problem-based learning affect cognitive processing? In this section, research will be discussed demonstrating various cognitive effects of problem-based learning on students.

Activation of prior knowledge. Schmidt presented small groups of students attending higher professional training with the following problem: "A red blood cell is put in pure water under a microscope. Another blood cell is added to an aqueous salt solution. It shrinks. Explain these phenomena. Half of the students discussed the blood-cell problem, while the other half discussed a neutral problem. This demonstrates that problem analysis in a small group indeed has a strong activating effect on prior knowledge.

Effects of prior knowledge activation on the processing of new information. In another study Schmidt, De Volder, De Grave, Moust and Patel presented the blood-cell problem to novices, fourteen-year old high school students that had never studied the subject concerned.

Problem-based Learning

Therefore, the theory these students developed about the mechanisms and processes which could be responsible for the phenomena described in the problem mainly had a common-sense character. In an attempt to account for the swelling of the blood cell, one group assumed, for instance, that the membrane probably had valves which would let the water in, but would prevent it from escaping again. Another group explained the shrinking of the cell by assuming that salt has hygroscopic characteristics. According to them, the salt 'soaked up' fluids from the cell in the way that it would with a wine-stained table cloth.

Table 4 represents several ideas and the elaborations on these ideas of these students. The group that had discussed the blood-cell problem prior to reading the text remembered significantly more about the text than the group that had studied an unrelated topic. These findings indicate that activation of prior knowledge through problem analysis in a small group definitely facilitates understanding and remembering new information, even if that prior knowledge is only to a small extent relevant to understanding the problem - and sometimes even incorrect.

Interestingly, students who studied the topic of osmosis a few weeks before the experiment was conducted called the 'experts' by the authors did not profit as much by the experimental treatment as compared to the novices, indicating that problem analysis is most helpful if students have only limited knowledge of the subject. Contribution of group discussion to the effect of problem-based learning. Of course, prior knowledge activation can be performed in several ways, e.

Does group discussion contribute more? They discovered that small-group analysis had a larger positive effect on remembering a text than individual problem analysis. Simply prompting already available knowledge relatively had the smallest effect. The investigators concluded that the confrontation with a relevant problem and small-group discussion of that problem each have an independent facilitating effect on prior knowledge relative to direct prompting of prior knowledge. Group discussion had, in particular, a considerable effect, suggesting that elaboration on prior knowledge and 2 Free recall is a procedure in which a subject is instructed to write down everything that he or she remembers about a certain topic without the aid of further information.

It is considered a measure of both amount and coherence of the knowledge a subject has. Cognitive processing while involved in problem discussion Students are, of course, not always involved to the same amount of overt verbalization of information in a small-group discussion. What happens to those who participate less actively in the tutorial group? Do students who elaborate less verbally - the silent students - learn less? This led the researchers to the conclusion that subjects not - or less participating in the discussion elaborate as much as those who do participate, without verbalizing their elaborations to the same extent as the latter.

According to these authors it would otherwise be hard to understand how these students would profit from the experience. In an exploratory study Geerligs investigated to what extent students participating in tutorial groups where really task focused, e. He followed five tutorial groups during ten subsequent sessions in the first and second year of the health sciences curriculum.

Geerligs used the technique of thought sampling for his study. At irregular intervals a beeper was activated and the tutor asked the students to write down their thoughts just before the beeper was heard. This research seems to suggest that students in a problem-oriented environment are most of the time actively involved in the processing of problem-relevant information.

The research of Geerligs did, however, not provide records of the nature and sequence of subjects' mental processes, or whether active students were more task-oriented than more silent students. Evidence for constructive processes in small group tutorials To date few data are available documenting the emergence of problem-oriented knowledge structures as a result of problem-based learning, that is: as a result of problem discussion plus individual study. There is, however, some evidence for problem-oriented tuning as a result of problem analysis per se. Table 4 summarizes explanations of secondary-education students regarding the blood-cell problem.

These explanations were compiled from taped discussions of six tutorial groups some groups produced several explanations. The explanations given suggest that students indeed adapt their general prior knowledge to fit the problem-at-hand; that they really attempt to construct a theory that deals with the phenomena provided in terms of an underlying process that explain these phenomena if only partially in most cases. The subjects involved had never before been confronted with a similar problem; therefore the assumption that general world knowledge is indeed restructured in order to make it suitable for the problem presented does not seem farfetched.

In a recent study, De Grave, Boshuizen and Schmidt investigated the ongoing cognitive and metacognitive processes during the phase of problem-analysis, by analyzing the verbal communication among group members and their thinking processes. Thinking processes were tapped by means of a stimulated recall procedure.

Directly after a tutorial session, each participant individually saw a videotape of the session and was requested to stop the tape whenever he or she would recall particular thoughts that came up during discussion. The investigators analyzed the verbatim transcripts of both the verbal interaction in the tutorial group and the recall protocols to study to what extent the ongoing processes can be described as theory construction, and whether there is evidence of conceptual change in small group tutorials.

Considerable time was also spent on what the authors describe as data exploration --finding out what the significance is of the various cues in the problem--, and problem definition. Less attention was given to procedures and meta-reasoning. By contrast, the thinking of the students especially reflected meta-reasoning. Students evaluate the appropriateness of their prior knowledge, reflect on the learning process, and on strategies of thinking.

It seems that, while thinking, students prepare their utterances and assess to what extent they are relevant to the task at hand. They also pay thought to the process of collaboration, although this category hardly shows up in the actual verbal interaction. This indicates that students are sensitive to the way the group collaborates, and take their own contributions in this respect into account. Theory construction and evaluation are also prevalent in the stimulated recall protocols. It seems that ideas are proposed in a cyclical fashion that continues during the whole session.

Even in the last three minutes of the minutes meeting, new ideas were proposed. In addition, the patterns of verbal interaction and individual thought are rather similar, thoughts being both a response to what is said and a precursor. Finally, the authors present evidence for conceptual change as a result of initial problem discussion. Students evaluate what is proposed by other students and are influenced by the arguments exchanged.

This is a somewhat surprising finding, because it was expected that conceptual changes would result largely from reading the literature. Groups were presented with either the blood-cell problem or with a problem description of a plane taking off from Amsterdam airport. Immediately after the discussion, the students were asked to indicate to what extent they were interested in receiving information about osmosis. After having studied a text on the subject, they were asked whether they would like to read more about the subjects and whether they were interested in additional information sent to them by the investigators.

Before as well as after having studied the texts, the groups that had tackled the blood-cell problem displayed significantly larger intrinsic motivation than the group that had studied the aeroplane problem. Schmidt b found that this higher intrinsic motivation showed itself, among other things, in the fact that significantly more students participating in the blood-cell discussion, had signed up to attend a lecture about osmosis than those who had not participated in that discussion.

Long-term retention of knowledge Does problem-based learning enhance students' long-term retention of information? Students in the problem-based course performed significantly poorer on an immediate multiple-choice test. A free recall test of core knowledge taken after six months showed the reverse: Students under the problem-based condition recalled up to five times more concepts than the control group. They also seem to indicate that initial learning may be poorer, possibly because students under this condition learn less initially, but process the information more extensively.

Which contributions does the tutor make? The question about the necessary level of a tutors' expertise has dominated, from the onset, the literature on the role of the tutor in problem-based learning. In the first book about this educational approach, Barrows and Tamblyn describe an experiment3 conducted at McMaster University Medical School with tutors who were more or less content-experts in the field covered by the problem being discussed by the students. Barrows and Tamblyn concluded: "This experiment thus showed that it is far better to have an expert working with the students, one who knows if the students are in a quandary or are going down the wrong track; but who also knows how to get them to discover this for themselves, to learn by making mistakes, and to reason their way to the right conclusions.

Such an expert can provide the students with better evaluative feedback about their learning, relevant to their own objectives" p. In a later publication, Barrows states that, ideally, tutorial groups are best guided by experts. According to Barrows, the worst thing to happen is confronting students with a tutor "who is an expert in the area of study, but a weak tutor" p.

So, Barrows opts for a tutor who is competent in both areas: subject-matter and tutoring skills. Of course, we all wish that all faculty involved in problem-based learning have the characteristics described by Barrows and others, but reality shows sometimes otherwise. In fact, some feel that teachers who are both 3 Not really an experiment in the traditional sense of the word.

No controls were used. The question then becomes: To what extent can students do with non-subject-matter tutors, and even with non-expert poor tutors? Although most advocates of problem-based learning emphasize the importance of the tutor role for students' learning in tutorial groups, until recently, there was almost no empirical data available concerning the question of tutors' expertise. In this contribution we will present data on this topic collected in various academic programs at Maastricht University. Next, we will review research comparing tutorial groups guided by either staff or student tutors.

In a subsequent section we will attempt to explain differences in outcomes between the various studies. Finally, we will make an effort to summarize the various findings in a comprehensive theory of tutor functioning and present data in support of that theory. Research comparing expert and non-expert staff tutors In an early study assessing the impact of content expertise on students learning, Schmidt compared the levels of achievement of second-year medical students in three courses, of Maastricht University's medical curriculum.

In the comparison, about students and 20 tutors were involved. Both students and tutors were randomly assigned to the tutorial groups. About half of the tutors were non-medical, such as social science and basic science staff. They were considered the non-experts with regard to the topics at hand. Staff with medical degrees were considered the subject-matter experts. End-of-course tests were used as the dependent variable. The study revealed no difference in levels of achievement related to content expertise of the tutor.

In fact, one of the best performing groups was guided by a laboratory assistant at the time, Maastricht University involved academic as well as non- academic tutors in its curriculum. De Volder and Schmidt studied a total of groups from the first four years of the same school. He found that tutor actual behaviors correlated significantly with tutors' level of expertise.

Students guided by experts performed somewhat better than students guided by non-experts. In another study carried out at the same institution, but conducted almost ten years later, Swanson, Stalenhoef-Halling and Van der Vleuten investigated effects of expertise of tutors on the performances of students, using end-of-course tests as the dependent measure. Since the particular curriculum integrated biomedical, clinical, and psychosocial aspects of medicine in each course, the investigators subdivided each end-of-course test according to these three categories and studied the impacts of tutors' professional backgrounds on student performances on the resulting subtests.

No effect of expertise was found. In an extensive research effort, Schmidt, Van der Arend, Moust, Kokx, and Boon investigated the effects of tutor's subject-matter expertise on students' levels of academic achievement in the problem-based health sciences curriculum of Maastricht University in Maastricht. Data were analyzed from staff-led tutorial groups involving students participants in seven four-year undergraduate programs.

The results showed that students guided by subject-matter experts achieved somewhat better than students guided by non- experts tutors. The effect of subject-matter expertise on achievement was strongest in the first curriculum year. Another study by Schmidt also showed that students guided by expert tutors performed significantly better than students guided by non-expert tutors.

Data were analyzed from 1, Maastricht University health sciences students who participated in tutorial groups led by content-expert staff tutors, non-expert staff tutors, or student tutors. The main effect of expertise level on achievement was statistically significant, showing that the higher the level of subject-matter expertise of the tutor, the better the students' achievement.

Responsible for this phenomenon is that in most of these programs a great number of students enter every year; e. In response to the influx of these large numbers of students, the various faculty boards decided to investigate whether it would be possible to employ students to perform the tutor role. In all schools, the student tutors hired were advanced undergraduate students. For most programs there were no strict criteria for selecting student tutors. Students had to show a reasonable level of achievement generally and a positive attitude towards problem-based learning.

Before students were entitled to tutor they had to participate in a workshop on tutoring skills. In the studies reviewed below, the student tutors can be considered relatively non-expert as compared with the academic staff. De Volder, De Grave, and Gijselaers compared achievement levels of health sciences students in three consecutive courses of the first curriculum year of the health sciences. In total, 17 student-guided groups were compared with 28 groups guided by staff tutors.

Assignment to groups was random. The investigators found significant differences favoring staff tutors in one course but failed to discern differences in the other two. A follow-up study carried out in the subsequent year of study in this specific course period, by De Grave, De Volder, Gijselaers, and Damoiseaux revealed no differences. Gijselaers, Bouhuijs, Mulder, and Mullink compared 20 student-tutored with 26 staff- tutored groups in two courses within the economics program.

The investigators found a difference in achievement levels favoring staff tutors in one of the courses. In the second course, however, no difference was found. A study of law students by Moust, De Volder, and Nuy , involving ten student tutors and ten staff tutors in a first-year course, revealed a significant difference supporting the hypothesis that tutors' subject-matter expertise indeed facilitates student performance.

A follow-up study in two other courses by Moust , however, failed to replicate the findings of the previous study. No differences were found between student- and staff- guided groups. Academic achievement of tutorial groups guided by staff tutors was compared with achievement of groups guided by student tutors. Overall, students guided by a staff tutor achieved somewhat better.

In terms of practical significance, the difference was, however, fairly small. Research on effects other than is rather scarce. Moust found differences in time spent on self-directed study in one course. Students guided by student tutors spent significantly less time on self-directed study than students guided by staff tutors. In summary, the results of the studies comparing expert staff tutors and non-expert staff tutors as well as the research comparing staff and student tutors reviewed here are generally inconclusive.

Of the five studies comparing academic achievement levels of students guided by staff tutors of different levels of subject-matter expertise, three De Volder, ; Schmidt, et al. Two other studies Schmidt, ; Swanson, et al. Of the six studies comparing staff tutoring with student tutoring, one Schmidt, et al. Reasons for inconclusive results of the tutor expertise studies The question, of course, is how these contradictory results may be explained. Several reasons have been proposed in the literature Schmidt, et al. The first reason may be related to the definition of what actually constitutes subject-matter expertise in small-group tutoring.

In some studies an extremely stringent definition of what constitutes a content-expert was applied: Expert tutors were those staff members who had an active research interest in the specific topic studied by the students. Non-experts included all non-specialists in the field concerned Davis, et al. Other studies in the domain of medicine divided the tutors in three broad subject-matter categories: biomedicine, clinical medicine, and social sciences staff.

Experts were those who had received training in the area covered by the course e. In the studies comparing staff with student tutoring, on the other hand, content expertise was considered equivalent to the level of training of the tutor and not so much to his or her specific knowledge all academic staff were considered expert. This may imply that some staff tutors employed in these studies were not really content experts in the stricter sense of the word.

In his study carried out in two consecutive courses, Moust , did not find any differences in achievement between student-led groups and staff-led groups. However, after removing a number of non-expert staff from his analyses, Moust demonstrated - a posteriori - that subject-matter expertise indeed made a difference in terms of student achievement. A second reason for the inconclusiveness of the findings may be the magnitudes of the samples studied. Most studies examined effects of subject-matter expertise in one single course De Grave, et al.

Only two studies included an entire year or an entire curriculum Swanson, et al. Even if the subject-matter expertise of the tutor makes a difference, its influence is bound to be small. Students spend relatively little time with their tutor and during these encounters, the verbal contributions of the tutor are mostly limited.

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Reliable effects, if any, will show up only when sufficient numbers of tutorial groups are included in the analysis, that is, if the power of the statistical test applied is sufficiently great. Studies employing large samples, however, also show contrasting results. The extent to which students are exposed to problem-based learning may also be a factor. It is often observed that students who have little or no experience with problem-based learning rely more heavily on their tutors as sources of guidance and information.

If these tutors are familiar with the subject-matter to be mastered, this may make a difference. This observation may explain why the positive findings reported were largely confined to first- year courses, or to courses in which students encountered problem-based learning for the first time. Novice students may lean more on their tutors' expertise than do students in later years. A fourth explanation - in agreement with the third - has been proposed by Schmidt Based on his earlier studies in which he found effects of tutor expertise mainly in those cases in which students were largely novices to the domain , he conjectured that students in a problem-based curriculum need a minimum level of structure if any useful learning is to take place.

This structure can be provided either internally, --through the prior knowledge that students already have with regard to the topic at hand-- or externally, --through the structure provided by the learning materials. If these kinds of structures lack for some reason, students will seek for structure provided by their tutor. Only under these conditions, a subject-matter-expert tutor may have a positive impact on his students' learning. In a study testing these hypotheses, he found that: a Tutor expertise particularly influenced student achievement when the students had limited prior knowledge.

When the level of prior knowledge was high, it was less important whether the tutor was a subject-matter expert or not. Students are then able to organize the new information themselves. Offering sufficient structure e. And c the impact of tutors' level of expertise was greatest in courses which were both poorly structured and introduced topics unfamiliar to students.

These findings suggest that indeed the tutor can be considered a last resort device. Student would seek guidance from their tutor mainly when everything else fails. In conditions were materials are sufficiently structured and prior knowledge is sufficient, the subject-matter expertise of the tutor seems to play a limited role. Differences in actual behavior between tutors A final reason for the inconclusiveness of the findings in the tutor subject-matter expertise studies may be that in some studies the experts did not behave differently from the non- experts, while in other studies the experts behaved differently.

Schmidt, et al. After each course, students were asked to rate their tutor's behavior on an item Likert type rating scale. Each item consisted of a statement with which students could strongly agree or strongly disagree. Subject-matter experts displayed a deeper understanding of the objectives of the particular course, appeared to be more knowledgeable about the subjects to be mastered by the students, and used their subject-matter knowledge more frequently in order to help the students. In addition, their contributions in this respect were rated more relevant.

The non- expert tutors, on the other hand, evaluated the group' functioning more often. Schmidt et al. However, the process-facilitation behaviors are not irrelevant. An effective tutor appears to be someone who uses his or her subject-matter knowledge and at the same time is able to ask stimulating questions" p. Schmidt and his colleagues also studied differences in behavior between student and staff tutors. The investigators found that staff tutors made a more extensive use of their subject-matter knowledge than student tutors. Detailed inspection of the data, however, showed that student tutors are rated higher in this respect in the first year of study, whereas staff tutors get higher ratings in the three subsequent years.

Based on interviews with both students and their tutors, the investigators distinguished between two main components of tutor functioning: the way a tutor handles the knowledge students must acquire the subject-matter-input component and the way a tutor establishes a personal relationship with the members of a tutorial group. Each component was assumed to have several sub-components. For all components of tutor functioning appropriate Likert-type rating scales were developed. Student tutors were better at understanding the nature of the cognitive problems students faced in attempting to master the subject-matter.

In addition, the investigators found that student tutors referred more often to the end-of-course test than staff tutors to direct students' activities in the small- group tutorials. As for the process-facilitation component, the researchers also found contrasts between staff and student tutors. Staff tutors showed more authority in both courses, while student tutors behaved more role congruent; they were more interested in students' daily lives and study experiences and their personalities. As for attention to group co-operation, no differences appeared in groups led by a staff or student tutor.

The findings leave one with the impression that student tutors better understand the nature of the intellectual problems first-year students face in the comprehension of the subject-matter as well as the demands that an university education poses upon them. A theory of the effective tutor Based on the findings reviewed here, in particular the differences in behaviors between expert, non-expert, and student tutors, Moust and Schmidt and Moust have proposed a theory of tutor performance.

The investigators framed their ideas in the context of the theory of problem-based learning proposed by Schmidt and Gijselaers , discussed earlier in this chapter. To do this a tutor has to express oneself in the language of the students, using the concepts they use and explaining things in ways easily grasped by the students. If a tutor is not able to frame his of her contributions in a language that is adapted to the level of students' understanding of the subject matter studied, these contributions will go unnoticed. In addition, cognitive congruence assumes sensitivity of the tutor concerning the difficulties that students may come across while dealing with a problem or with the subject-matter relevant to that problem.

A tutor should know when to intervene and what to offer: asking for clarification, suggesting a counterexample or providing some brief explanation. Cognitive congruence is a necessary condition for tutors to be effective. Without appropriate subject-matter knowledge it will be difficult to follow the students' line of reasoning or actively contribute to it. And without a genuine and personal interest in the students and their learning there would not be a tempting reason to help them carrying out their task, nor would their be a particular urge to understand the nature of the difficulties students meet with while learning based on problems.

Therefore, both subject-matter expertise and interpersonal qualities are necessary conditions for cognitive congruence to occur. Figure 3 summarizes the Schmidt and Moust position on tutor behavior and its effects on students. Higher levels of cognitive congruence cause the tutorial group to function better, which expresses itself in more intrinsic interest in subject matter displayed by the students, extended self-study time, and higher achievement.

Research to test this theory of the effective tutor was done by Schmidt and Moust in Maastricht University's health sciences curriculum. To that end, data from tutorial groups and their tutors were studied. Students were asked to respond to items in a program evaluation questionnaire, in which the functioning of the tutor was an element, at the end of each course.

Social congruence was measured by five items, including the following "The tutor demonstrated that he liked informal contact with us" and "The tutor showed interest in our personal lives. Self-study time was measured by asking students to give an estimate of the number of hours per week spent on self-directed learning activities. Student achievement was measured after each six-week course by to true-false items in the first year and short-essay questions in subsequent years.

Finally, intrinsic interest in subject-matter was measured by inquiring how interesting the students thought the course's subject matter was.


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The data were analyzed using a structural equations modelling approach. Figure 4 shows the relevant path coefficients.

Problem based learning (PBL) & Problem Solving (part-1)

These path coefficients indicate the strength of the causal relationship between any two variables. Only statistically significant path coefficients are displayed. The influence of tutorial group functioning on self study time is somewhat more limited and so is the influence of time-on-task on achievement. Note that the model as proposed only allows one- to-one relations. Assuming that social congruence not only contributes to higher levels of cognitive congruence in the tutor, but also may have a direct positive impact on the way the group members interact with each other, a direct path would be appropriate.

In addition, one could assume that the use of expertise by the tutor would not only be indirectly through cognitive congruence and group functioning , but also directly affect the amount of time spent by students, or achievement, etc. The investigators tested some of these alternatives and found that with a number of adaptations of the original model an excellent fit of the data could be established. The less restrictive model is displayed as Figure 5.

Both social congruence and expertise use appear to be important constructs, because they do not only affect cognitive congruence -- as was hypothesized by Moust-- but also influence other variables in the model. Social congruence does not only help the tutor being more cognitively congruent with his or her students, but also seems to facilitate group performance in a more direct way. Observations of small-group sessions have indeed documented immediate effects of tutoring style on the nature of student interactions see e. In addition, students almost invariably report that they feel more free to contribute if a tutor displays an interest in what they do Moust, Intriguing is the slightly negative influence of expertise on self-study time, suggesting that the more the tutor contributes to the discussion using his own subject-matter knowledge, the less time students spend on self-directed learning.

Finally, the effect of the tutor's subject-matter expertise on achievement has been demonstrated. So, effective tutoring in the context of problem-based learning seems to imply three distinct, though interrelated, qualities: the possession of a suitable knowledge base with regard to the topic under study, a willingness to become involved with students in an authentic way, and the skill to express oneself in a language understood by students.

This theory of the effective tutor merges two different perspectives prevalent in the literature. One perspective emphasizes the personal qualities of the tutor; his or her ability to communicate with students in an informal way, coupled with an empathic attitude that enables them to encourage student learning by creating an atmosphere in which open exchange of ideas is facilitated. The other stresses the tutor's subject-matter knowledge as a determinant for learning. Conclusion Understanding how problem-based learning works, is only in its preliminary stages.

The reader may have noticed that most research cited has been conducted in the last decennium. This implies that only recently, researchers have begun to gain an understanding of what happens to the learner in problem-based curricula. It seems to us that four issues have been resolved fairly satisfactorily.

First, in a number of studies it has been demonstrated that the initial analysis of a problem mobilizes prior knowledge among students that is used to construct a initial representation of the processes responsible for the phenomena or events described in it. We have chosen to assign to these collaborative cognitive processes the label of theory construction; students built a theory based on whatever they already know, suspect and think about the problem.

These studies were conducted in carefully controlled experiments somewhat remote from actual educational reality. Recently, however, De Grave in press has exactly replicated these findings in a medical curriculum, using actual curricular materials. Third, we know now quite a lot about the behaviors of tutors that tend to be effective in guiding their students.

And fourth, we seem to have gained an understanding of the conditions under which tutors are most effective. An area that deserves further study is what makes a problem useful. Preliminary studies into this area have produced disappointing results e. It seems that quality of a problem can only be decided upon in the context of a particular course, taking into account the prior knowledge of the students. Further research is recommended here. A second area deserving attention is what exactly students do while engaged in self-directed learning activities.

We have only limited knowledge on the factors that influence what students do given a set of learning goals, and what we know about this, leads to the conclusion that there is no straightforward relationship between what is agreed upon during initial problem analysis in the tutorial group, and what students do subsequently e. A third area of concern has to do with long-term effects of problem-based learning. Some studies suggest that students in a problem-based curriculum learn less, but remember more in the long run.

This is an intriguing finding, that should be elaborated upon Acknowledgement This chapter includes excerpts from articles published in Academic Medicine and Medical Education, reprinted with permission here. Examples of problems offered to students in the various problem-based curricula of Maastricht University. Little monsters Coming home from work, tired and in need of a hot bath, Anita, an account manager, discovers two spiders in her tub.

She shrinks back, screams, and runs away. Her heart pounces, a cold sweat is coming over her. A neighbor saves her from her difficult situation by killing the little animals using a newspaper. Explain From the introductory course of the psychology curriculum, Maastricht University, The miserable life of a stomach. The protagonist of our story is the stomach of a truck driver who used to work shifts and smokes a lot.

The stomach developed a gastric ulcer and so the smoking stopped.

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Stomach tablets are now a regular part of the intake. While on the highway in southern Germany, our stomach had to digest a heavy German lunch. Half an hour later, a severe abdominal pain developed. The stomach had to expel the meal. Two tablets of acetyl salicylic acid were inserted to relieve the pain the truck driver had forgotten his stomach tablets!

A second extrusion, some hours later contained a bit of blood. In a hospital in Munich an endoscope was inserted. The stomach needed to be operated upon in the near future. Adapted from a course on abdominal complaints, medical curriculum, Maastricht University, The death penalty A US serviceman, stationed at the NATO basis Soesterberg, the Netherlands, has been arrested and detained by the Public Prosecutor's Office on charges of homicide.

The serviceman is liable to be subjected to the death penalty in the United States. The question arises as to whether the Netherlands authorities in view of the existing law and the practice developed under the European Convention, should comply with the request by the United States. The Seven Jump 1. Clarify unknown terms and concepts in the problem description 2.

Define the problem; that is: List the phenomena to be explained 3. Use prior knowledge and common sense.

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Critize the explanations proposed and try to produce a coherent description of the processes that, according to what you think, underlie the phenomena 5. Formulate learning issues for self-directed learning 6. Fill the gaps in your knowledge through self-study 7. Share your findings with your group and try to integrate the knowledge acquired into a comprehensive explanation for the phenomena. Check whether you know enough now. Sample items used for the rating of the quality of problems.

The problems were clearly stated 2. The problems were suitable for applying a systematic work procedure 3. The problems sufficiently stimulated group discussion 4.

The problems gave sufficient opportunities for formulating learning goals 5. Swelling 1. For example, does the environment encourage application of knowledge? Does the assessment provide feedback? An excessive workload is negatively related to deep learning. However, this review also mentions the characteristics of students as being influential, such as whether students are intrinsically motivated.

Not that much, in my opinion. However, much more evidence is needed about the process of PBL and how this influences student learning. What actually happens to the learner in PBL? What is your perspective on the importance of microanalytic approaches in investigating the process of PBL? Take, for example, the argument that PBL may stimulate relatedness because students work together in a group.

I agree that working together in a group is an important distinctive element of a PBL environment. So, I support the idea that a microanalytic approach to investigating the process of PBL is needed. These questions seem much more necessary and sensible to me than the question of which learning environment is better.

Which microanalytic aspects should be studied first, do you think? These studies make it clear that the quality of interactions in PBL requires further improvement and that both students and tutors need further training and feedback on how to enhance a deep group discussion. These studies were all conducted in tutorial groups with homogeneous student populations, so how does this work in tutorial groups in which students from diverse and heterogeneous backgrounds collaborate, and groups in which students differ in terms of language, academic background and cultural background?

What about students who are less used to speaking up in a group?

Problem Based Learning

Not much is known yet about PBL with diverse student teams and students with diverse backgrounds. And last but certainly not least, studies focusing on the role of PBL problems are likely to be important. As I argued before, the PBL problem should preferably do the work on its own. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on studies that are needed in this area? From this perspective, it seems not only relevant to investigate which microanalytic aspects of the learning environment are linked to the development of SDL, but also to look at the effects in the longer term.

Yes, great idea. Hopefully others will also be inspired to conduct research on how the different elements of a PBL environment can be optimised for what kind of student, under which conditions and why. Volume 47 , Issue 2. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Medical Education Volume 47, Issue 2. Diana Dolmans Search for more papers by this author. David Gijbels Search for more papers by this author. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. David Gijbels: Thank you for inviting me to this discussion and for sharing your questions with me.

DG: Yes, indeed, we both agree on a broad definition of what kind of learning environment could be labelled as PBL. DD: Yes, great idea. Acknowledgments Acknowledgements: none. Conflicts of interest: none. Ethical approval: not applicable. International Guide to Student Achievement. New York, NY: Routledge ; —4. Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. Citing Literature. Volume 47 , Issue 2 February Pages References Related Information.

Problem Based Learning A Research Perspective On Learning Interactions Page 962

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