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Problem-based Learning versus Traditional Lecturing in Pharmacy Students’ Short-term Examination Performance

Judy W.M. Cheng, Antonia Alafris, Harold L. Kirschenbaum, Michelle M. Kalis, Martin E. Brown

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare problem- based learning (PBL) and traditional lecturing (TL) in Pharm.D. students’ performance on pharmacotherapeutic examinations. Fourth-year Pharm.D. students were divided into two groups: Group A (n 5 186), enrolled in Pharmacotherapeutics II (PH210), Fall 1999, were taught hyperlipidemia by PBL and thromboembolic diseases by TL; Group B (n 5 187), enrolled in Fall 2000, were taught thromboembolic diseases by PBL and hyperlipidemia by TL. Student performance was assessed via multiple-choice examinations. For hyperlipidemia examination scores, Group B students performed statistically and academically significantly better (defined as >5% difference) on the total score (78.6 vs. 55.6%, p < 0.001), on analytical questions (81.5 vs. 51.1%, p < 0.001) but not on recall questions (74.3 vs. 83%, p>0.05) than Group A. For thromboembolic diseases examination scores, Group A did as well as Group B in analytical questions (73.6 vs. 71.3%, p > 0.05), significantly better in total scores (72.2 vs. 69.2%, p 5 0.047) and recall questions (73.8 vs. 63.0%, p 5 0.001). Teaching hyperlipidemia by PBL resulted in statistically and academically significantly lower examination scores; this difference was not noted when thromboembolic diseases was the topic. Limitations include large class size, variations in examination questions and the possibility that certain topics may be more difficult for students to master using PBL. Continuation of long-term data collection will further determine if PBL helps students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.


Keywords

Examination performance; Pharm. D; Pharmacotherapeutics


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