Problem-based learning in ophthalmology: a pilot program for curricular renewal

T A Farrell, M A Albanese, P R Pomrehn
Archives of Ophthalmology 1999, 117 (9): 1223-6

OBJECTIVES: To gain experience with problem-based learning as a demonstration project in a medical school's curriculum renewal effort and determine if using a single facilitator to circulate among the small groups would yield positive results.

DESIGN: We developed 16 cases around 4 ophthalmic problems that were used in 3-hour small-group sessions during the Introduction to Clinical Medicine semester of the second-year curriculum. A single faculty member facilitated the small groups of 4 students each that were created by self-division at each of 5 sessions.

SETTING: A state-supported large Midwestern medical school.

PARTICIPANTS: All students (N = 75) enrolled in the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course prior to their standard introductory ophthalmology lectures.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A 5-item pretest, related to each of that day's clinical problems, was administered at the beginning and again at the end of the session as a posttest. A satisfaction questionnaire with Likert-type questions was also completed by the students at the close of the session.

RESULTS: Knowledge scores showed statistically significant gains with a mean of 1.7 points. Student satisfaction was very positive--85% stated that they learned more than they would have in the traditional format and 93% agreed that they enjoyed the problem-based learning format.

CONCLUSIONS: A single facilitator successfully managed small groups of students in a modified problem-based learning format that produced significant knowledge gains and high student satisfaction. This positive experience was one of the factors that led to adoption of problem-based learning into the curriculum.

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