Perceptions of problem-based learning (PBL) group effectiveness in a socially-culturally diverse medical student population.Educ Health (Abingdon). 2008 Jul; 21(2):116.EH
A key aspect of the success of a PBL curriculum is the effective implementation of its small group tutorials. Diversity among students participating in tutorials may affect the effectiveness of the tutorials and may require different implementation strategies.
To determine how students from diverse backgrounds perceive the effectiveness of the processes and content of the PBL tutorials. This study also aims to explore the relationship between students' perceptions of their PBL tutorials and their gender, age, language, prior educational training, and secondary schooling.
Data were survey results from 244 first-year student-respondents at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to verify scale constructs in the questionnaire. Relationships between independent and dependent variables were investigated in an analysis of variance.
The average scores for the items measured varied between 3.3 and 3.8 (scale value 1 indicated negative regard and 5 indicated positive regard). Among process measures, approximately two-thirds of students felt that learning in a group was neither frustrating nor stressful and that they enjoyed learning how to work with students from different social and cultural backgrounds. Among content measures, 80% of the students felt that they learned to work successfully with students from different social and cultural groups and 77% felt that they benefited from the input of other group members. Mean ratings on these measures did not vary with students' gender, age, first language, prior educational training, and the types of schools they had previously attended.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Medical students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, regardless of their backgrounds, generally have positive perceptions of small group learning. These findings support previous studies in highlighting the role that small group tutorials can play in overcoming cultural barriers and promoting unity and collaborative learning within diverse student groups.