Effects of conventional and problem-based learning on clinical and general competencies and career development

Med Educ. 2008 Mar;42(3):256-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02959.x. Epub 2008 Jan 24.


Objective: To test hypotheses regarding the longitudinal effects of problem-based learning (PBL) and conventional learning relating to students' appreciation of the curriculum, self-assessment of general competencies, summative assessment of clinical competence and indicators of career development.

Methods: The study group included 2 complete cohorts of graduates who were admitted to the medical curriculum in 1992 (conventional curriculum, n = 175) and 1993 (PBL curriculum, n = 169) at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Data were obtained from student records, graduates' self-ratings and a literature search. Gender and secondary school grade point average (GPA) scores were included as moderator variables. Data were analysed by a stepwise multiple and logistic regression analysis.

Results: Graduates of the PBL curriculum scored higher on self-rated competencies. Contrary to expectations, graduates of the PBL curriculum did not show more appreciation of their curriculum than graduates of the conventional curriculum and no differences were found on clinical competence. Graduates of the conventional curriculum needed less time to find a postgraduate training place. No differences were found for scientific activities such as reading scientific articles and publishing in peer- reviewed journals. Women performed better on clinical competence than did men. Grade point average did not affect any of the variables.

Conclusions: The results suggest that PBL affects self-rated competencies. These outcomes confirm earlier findings. However, clinical competence measures did not support this finding.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Career Mobility
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Self Concept
  • Students, Medical / psychology*