Effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula: theory, practice and paper darts

Authors

  • Geoffrey R Norman,

    1. 1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 2 Department of Psychology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands
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  • Henk G Schmidt

    1. 1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 2 Department of Psychology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands
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Geoffrey R Norman McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 3Z5, Canada

Abstract

In a recent review article, Colliver concluded that there was no convincing evidence that problem-based learning was more effective than conventional methods. He then went on to lay part of the blame on cognitive psychology, claiming that ‘the theory is weak, its theoretical concepts are imprecise... the basic research is contrived and ad hoc’. This paper challenges these claims and presents evidence that (a) cognitive research is not contrived and irrelevant, (b) curriculum level interventions are doomed to fail and (c) education needs more theory-based research.

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