A preliminary study to evaluate the impact of problem-based learning (PBL) to a postgraduate clinical pharmacy programme in the UK


  • Sue Shaw
  • David Gerrett Pharmacy Academic Practice Unit, University of Derby, Western Road, Mickleover, Derby DE3 9GX, UK
  • Bruce Warner Pharmacy Academic Practice Unit, University of Derby, Western Road, Mickleover, Derby DE3 9GX, UK


Education, pharmacy, postgraduate, problem-based learning, United Kingdom, assessment


Background: The expanding volume of information on drugs and their application requires pharmacy educators to undertake a paradigm shift from teaching knowledge to teaching problem-solving skills.
Aim: This study compares the use of problem-based learning (PBL) to traditional tutorial sessions in an MSc in Clinical Pharmacy Programme. Evaluation considers both assessment of knowledge and understanding and student perception to the learning experience.
Method: Seventeen students were recruited to a randomised crossover trial conducted in two therapeutic modules.
Results: No significant difference was found for assessment scores. In relation to attitude, students favoured PBL. Non-attendance was an issue, as students, engaged in full time employment and additional on-call commitments, were not mandated to attend. The authors conclude that the adoption of PBL does not harm traditional educational outcomes and is preferred by students. This work provides a baseline for further studies and will assist in the introduction of PBL to the postgraduate pharmacy curriculum.

Author Biography

Sue Shaw

Pharmacy Academic Practice Unit, University of Derby, Western Road, Mickleover, Derby DE3 9GX, UK    


Albanese, M. A., & Mitchell, S. (1993). Problem-based learning: A review of literature on its outcomes and implementation issues. Academic Medicine, 68, 52–81.

Colliver, J. A. (2000). Effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula: Research and theory. Academic Medicine, 75, 257 – 266.

Davis, M. H., & Harden, R. M. (1999). AMEE medical education guide No. 15: Problem-based learning: A practical guide. Medical Teacher, 21, 130–140.

Department of Health. (2004), The NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (NHS KSF) and the Development Review Process. Cm 3616. London, Stationery Office.

Department of Health. (2005), Guidance for the development of consultant pharmacist posts. Cm 4586. London, Stationery Office.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (1998). Adult learner. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.

Macdonald, R., & Savin-Baden, M. (2004), LTSN Assessment Series No. 13: A Briefing on Assessment in Problem-based Learning.

Newman, M. (2003), A pilot systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of Problem-based Learning. Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review Group, 2003. LTSN Special report 2.

National Health Service. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, On the Internet: http://www.nice.org.uk/. Accessed 12/05/2005.

Norman, G. R., & Schmidt, H. G. (1992). The psychological basis of problem-based learning: A review of evidence. Academic Medicine, 67, 557–565. (2004), PBL: A Quality Experience, Salford, University of Salford

Selby, S. M. (1971). Standard mathematical tables (p. 631). Cleveland, Ohio: CRC Press.

Silverthorne, J., Mackellar, A., Thomas, S., Price, G., & Cantrill, J. (2005). Problem-based learning in the fourth year of the MPharm at Manchester. Pharmaceutical Journal, 274, 117–120.

Vernon, D. T. A., & Blake, R. L. (1993). Does problem-based learning work? A meta-analysis of evaluative research. Academic Medicine, 68, 550–563.

Walton, H. J., & Matthews, M. B. (1989). Essentials of problem- based learning. Medical Education, 23, 542–558.

Wood, D. (2003). ABC of learning and teaching in medicine: Problem-based learning. British Medical Journal, 326, 328–330.



Research Article