Impact of problem-based learning on residents' self-directed learning

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Jun;155(6):669-72. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.6.669.


Objective: To examine the effect of a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum on self-directed learning behaviors among a group of pediatric residents.

Methods: A controlled comparison study was conducted with 80 pediatric residents at a large urban academic medical center. Residents were observed over 3 distinct but consecutive periods. First, all residents participated in a 3-month-long daily lecture series (pre-exposure phase). Then, for another 3 months, 39 residents (PBL group) were exposed to twice-weekly PBL sessions while 41 residents continued with the daily lectures (lecture-based group) and served as controls. Problem-based learning was withdrawn after 3 months and all residents returned to the lecture series (follow-up phase). Residents' self-directed learning behaviors were assessed through self-administered questionnaires during the pre-exposure, exposure, and follow-up phases.

Results: There were no significant preexposure differences in self-directed learning behaviors between the groups. During the exposure phase, the PBL group had significantly higher self-directed learning: 5 or more hours of independent study (26% vs 7%) [corrected] (P=.001); 5 or more hours of medical discussions (28% vs 4%) (P=.008); 2 or more computer literature searches (51% vs 30%) (P=.005); and total hours of self-study per week (6 vs 4 hours) (P<.05). At the 3-month follow-up, the PBL group had returned to baseline levels of self-directed learning and there were no significant differences between the groups.

Conclusion: Residents exposed to PBL engaged in significantly higher levels of self-directed learning than their counterparts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Programmed Instructions as Topic*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires