An Exploration of Direct Entry Undergraduate Medical Students’ Readiness to Engage in Problem Based Learning (PBL)

2017-02-15T00:56:11Z (GMT) by Loretta Garvey
Background: Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a well-established learning pedagogy included in medical course curricula throughout the world. The underpinnings of PBL are based on the constructivist learning theory of Vygotsky, and, more recently, the experiential learning theory of Kolb. Through application of these learning theories, this thesis has identified a set of elements required to engage in PBL to determine if direct (school leaver) entry medical students have the capacity to engage in PBL from commencement of their medical training. Identified elements were high levels of critical thinking, patient centeredness, self-directed learning (SDL), deep or strategic approaches to learning, participation and reasoning, and professional behaviours. The influence of gender, culture, and learner characteristics such as learning styles and personality on readiness to engage PBL were also investigated.
   Aims: The aim of the research reported here was to determine the readiness of direct entry undergraduate medical students to engage in PBL from the commencement of their training. If readiness is apparent, the introduction of PBL may occur earlier in medical training to maximise exposure and therefore the learning outcomes of this pedagogy in undergraduate medical students. Specific aims were to explore the relationship between learning styles and engagement in PBL, and to examine the relationships between medical student’s gender, culture, personality and the identified elements required to engage in PBL.
   Participants and Method: The sample comprised of N=191, Year 1 and 2 direct entry undergraduate medical students from an Australian university delivering a common medical curriculum in two campuses (Australia and Malaysia). Participants anonymously completed seven online surveys on critical thinking, patient centeredness, SDL, approaches to learning, personality and learning styles. Facilitator rated behavioural evaluations of students’ during PBL were collected. Fisher’s exact tests, Analysis of Variance, and Multiple Regression analyses were used to analyse the data.
   Results: Findings indicate a readiness to engage in PBL in from commencement of medical training in this direct entry medical student cohort. Year 1 students had a similar level of readiness relative to Year 2 students to undertake and engage in PBL. The investigation of personality revealed that conscientiousness and openness to experience were two personality factors that most aligned with high levels of readiness to engage in PBL. A learning style profile of this medical student cohort was established. Results indicated a distinct variation in learning styles, with the Analyzing style most prevalent.
   Conclusions: The findings of this study support the introduction of PBL from commencement of training in a direct entry undergraduate medical degree. Earlier implementation of PBL in the medical curriculum may provide an opportunity for students to engage in more complex concepts earlier in their training thereby better preparing them for the complexities of the clinical environment, and the ever evolving field of medicine.