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Keywords:

  • problem-based learning;
  • group process;
  • critical thinking;
  • self-directed learning;
  • problem solving;
  • group dynamics;
  • group communication;
  • group learning;
  • group decision making;
  • nursing education

Problem-based learning in a new Canadian curriculum

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a method of group learning that uses true-to-life problems as a stimulus for students to learn problem-solving skills and acquire knowledge about the basic and clinical sciences. This article documents the design and implementation of PBL in a second year course in the new curriculum of the University of Ottawa School of Nursing’s Generic Program. The learning and teaching experiences of students and facilitators in this PBL course are described. As a way to determine students’ perception of their learning using PBL, they were asked to respond to four questions. The most frequently described thinking processes were problem solving, nursing process and group process. When asked to describe the learning they derived from PBL, as differentiated from other instructional methods, students identified group process and problem solving most often. The most frequently identified factors that influenced performance and learning in PBL were positive attitude and group effort. The factors that affected the facilitators’ performance of their role were large group size, insufficient practice of facilitator skills and PBL preparation. To enhance group process, facilitators modelled and shared roles. They fostered student motivation and development through formative evaluation. PBL produced clear benefits for students, such as increased autonomous learning, critical thinking, problem solving and communication. For facilitators, PBL was a liberation from the traditional role of ‘content expert and super consultant’.