Comparing the effects of problem-based and conventional curricula in an international sample

J Med Educ. 1987 Apr;62(4):305-15. doi: 10.1097/00001888-198704000-00002.


In this article, the authors review 15 studies that compare various educational outcomes of problem-based, community-oriented medical curricula with those of conventional programs. The data suggest that problem-based curricula provide a student-centered learning environment and encourage an inquisitive style of learning in their students as opposed to the rote memorization and short-term learning strategies induced by conventional medical education. In addition, community-oriented schools appear to influence the career preferences of their students. The few data available show that significantly larger proportions of graduates from these schools seek careers in primary care. Some of the studies reviewed suggest that students in conventional programs perform somewhat better on traditional measures of academic achievement than do students in problem-based curricula. However, these differences, if any, tend to be very small. Data with respect to performance on instruments measuring clinical competence are inconclusive. Finally, the authors discuss the difficulties involved in carrying out comparative research at the curriculum level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Career Choice
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Egypt
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Netherlands
  • New Mexico
  • Problem Solving*
  • Students, Medical / psychology