Outcomes of problem-based learning in nurse education: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Nurse Educ Today. 2023 Jan:120:105631. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2022.105631. Epub 2022 Nov 8.


Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL) in nursing students, including recently reported trials.

Design: Meta-analysis was performed to obtain summary conclusions on the influence of PBL on nursing students' learning outcomes.

Data sources: Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PubMed, and Web of Science were searched for relevant studies from the period between database inception and March 3, 2022.

Review methods: A random-effects model was used to generate pooled standardized mean differences (SMD) for critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-confidence. The heterogeneity of each variable in the pooled estimate was determined using a random-effects model.

Results: Overall, PBL had a greater positive effect than traditional learning on critical thinking (SMD: 0.44; 95 % CI: 0.14-0.73), analysis (SMD: 0.72; 95 % CI: 0.84-1.25), and evaluation (SMD: 0.33; 95 % CI: 0.05-0.61). However, the impact of PBL on problem-solving and self-confidence need further investigation.

Conclusions: PBL appears to improve nursing students' critical thinking skills, especially their ability to analyze and evaluate. The findings of this study may be used as evidence of PBL being a more effective method than traditional/conventional learning techniques for increasing students' critical thinking.

Keywords: Critical thinking; Nurse education; Problem-based learning; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate* / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Problem-Based Learning / methods
  • Students, Nursing*
  • Thinking