Objectives: The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the problem-based learning (PBL) method as an alternative to conventional educational methods in Iranian undergraduate medical courses.
Materials and methods: We systematically searched international datasets banks, including PubMed, Scopus, and Embase, and internal resources of banks, including MagirIran, IranMedex, IranDoc, and Scientific Information Database (SID), using appropriate search terms, such as "PBL", "problem-based learning", "based on problems", "active learning", and" learner centered", to identify PBL studies, and these were combined with other key terms such as "medical", "undergraduate", "Iranian", "Islamic Republic of Iran", "I.R. of Iran", and "Iran". The search included the period from 1980 to 2016 with no language limits.
Results: Overall, a total of 1,057 relevant studies were initially found, of which 21 studies were included in the systematic review and meta-analysis. Of the 21 studies, 12 (57.14%) had a high methodological quality. Considering the pooled effect size data, there was a significant difference in the scores (standardized mean difference [SMD]=0.80, 95% CI [0.52, 1.08], P<0.000) in favor of PBL, compared with the lecture-based method. Subgroup analysis revealed that using PBL alone is more favorable compared to using a mixed model with other learning methods such as lecture-based learning (LBL).
Conclusion: The results of this systematic review showed that using PBL may have a positive effect on the academic achievement of undergraduate medical courses. The results suggest that teachers and medical education decision makers give more attention on using this method for effective and proper training.
Keywords: education; meta-analysis; problem-based learning; traditional learning.