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Reasoning versus knowledge retention and ascertainment throughout a problem-based learning curriculum

Authors

  • Anne Collard,

    1. Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
    2. Department of Biomedical and Pre-clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Sabine Gelaes,

    1. Institute of Training and Research in Higher Education (Institut de Formation et de Recherche en Enseignement Supérieur), University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Sophie Vanbelle,

    1. Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Serge Bredart,

    1. Department of Cognitive Sciences, Faculty of Psychology, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Jean-Olivier Defraigne,

    1. Department of Biomedical and Pre-clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Jacques Boniver,

    1. Department of Biomedical and Pre-clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
    2. Institute of Training and Research in Higher Education (Institut de Formation et de Recherche en Enseignement Supérieur), University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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  • Jean-Pierre Bourguignon

    1. Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
    2. Institute of Training and Research in Higher Education (Institut de Formation et de Recherche en Enseignement Supérieur), University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
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Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Liège, CHU Sart-Tilman, 13 Avenue de l’Hôpital, 4000 Liège, Belgium. Tel: 00 32 4 366 7247; Fax: 00 32 4 366 7246; E-mail: jpbourguignon@ulg.ac.be

Abstract

Context  Since 2000, problem-based learning (PBL) seminars have been introduced into the curriculum of medical studies at the University of Liège. We aimed to carry out a cross-sectional investigation of the maturational increase in biomedical reasoning capacity in comparison with factual knowledge retention throughout the curriculum.

Methods  We administered a factual knowledge test (i.e. a true/false test with ascertainment degree) and a biomedical reasoning test (i.e. an adapted script concordance test [SCT]) to 104 students (Years 3–6) and a reference panel. The selected topic was endocrinology.

Results  On the SCT, the students obtained higher scores in Years 5 and 6 than in Years 3 and 4. In Year 3, the scores obtained on SCT questions in a new context indicated transfer of reasoning skills. On the true/false test, the scores of Year 3 students were significantly higher than those of students in the other three year groups. A positive correlation between SCT scores and true/false test scores was observed only for students in Years 3 and 4. In each group, the ascertainment degree scores were higher for correct than for incorrect responses and the difference was calculated as an index of self-estimation of core knowledge. This index was found to be positively correlated to SCT scores in the four year groups studied.

Conclusions  Biomedical reasoning skills are evidenced early in a curriculum involving PBL and further increase during training. This is accompanied by a decrease in factual knowledge retention. The self-estimation of core knowledge appears to be related to reasoning capacity, which suggests there is a link between the two processes.

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