Emotional responses of tutors and students in problem-based learning: lessons for staff development.Med Educ. 2005 Feb; 39(2):145-53.ME
Problem-based learning (PBL) is a method of teaching and learning that is used increasingly in medical and health care curricula worldwide. The literature on PBL is considerable and continues to develop. One important aspect of PBL is that students and tutors spend a lot of time together and this fosters an informal atmosphere that may encourage intimacy. The existing literature on PBL has not considered the emotional and psychological aspects of PBL nor the concomitant need for staff support and development.
We present a discussion paper considering the ways in which educationalists using or considering using PBL could be informed by the psychological and psychotherapeutic literature on groups and group dynamics, in particular the work of Wilfred Bion. We discuss how PBL tutorials may arouse emotional responses that could result in unconsidered behaviours that impede student learning. We argue that faculty and PBL tutors need to agree and remain alert to the primary task of the group. Faculty should develop professional standards for tutors to use as reference points to ensure the group stays on course and achieves its intended outcomes.
We conclude that greater attention should be paid by educationalists and faculty to identifying possible tutor emotional responses as part of initial PBL tutor training and ongoing staff development. We offer vignettes that have been successfully used in training and staff development at a UK medical school to demonstrate the practical application of our theoretical discussion.