Problem-based learning versus lecture-based learning in postgraduate medical education

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Aug;29(4):280-7. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.732.


Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of problem-based learning in comparison with lecture-based learning in a postgraduate medical training program concerning the management of mental health problems for occupational health physicians.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial in 1999, with a mean follow-up of 14 months after the educational intervention, was used involving postgraduate medical education and training for occupational health physicians in The Netherlands, with 118 physicians in training as occupational health physicians. The experimental program was based on the principles of problem-based learning; the control program used the traditional lecture-based approach. Both programs were aimed at improving knowledge of and performance in the occupational management of work-related mental health problems. As the main outcome measures, knowledge tests consisting of true-or-false and open-answer questions and performance in practice based on self-reports and performance indicators were used. Satisfaction with the course was rated by the participants.

Results: In both groups, knowledge had increased equally directly after the programs and decreased equally after the follow-up. The gain in knowledge remained positive. The performance indicator scores also increased in both groups, but significantly more so in the problem-based group. The problem-based group was less satisfied with the course.

Conclusions: Both forms of postgraduate medical training are effective. In spite of less favorable evaluations, the problem-based program appeared to be more effective than the lecture-based program in improving performance. Both programs, however, were equally effective in improving knowledge levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Netherlands
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy
  • Occupational Medicine / education*
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Teaching / methods