Using innovative group-work activities to enhance the problem-based learning experience for dental students


Tracey Speake
Faculty of Life Sciences
Stopford Building
The University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PT Manchester UK
Tel: +44 (0) 161 2755693
Fax: +44 (0) 161 2755456


Problem-based learning (PBL) in medical and dental curricula is now well established, as such courses are seen to equip students with valuable transferable skills (e.g. problem-solving or team-working abilities), in addition to knowledge acquisition. However, it is often assumed that students improve in such skills without actually providing direct opportunity for practice, and without giving students feedback on their performance. ‘The Manchester Dental Programme’ (TMDP) was developed at The University of Manchester, UK as a 5-year, integrated enquiry-led curriculum. The existing PBL course was redesigned to include a unique, additional PBL session (‘Session 4’) that incorporated an activity for the group to complete, based on the subject material covered during student self-study. A summative mark was awarded for each activity that reflected the teamwork, organisational and overall capabilities of the groups. This paper describes the different types of activities developed for the Session 4 and presents an analysis of the perceptions of the students and staff involved. The student response to the Session 4 activities, obtained via questionnaires, was extremely positive, with the majority finding them fun, yet challenging, and ‘worthwhile’. The activities were perceived to enhance subject understanding; develop students’ problem-solving skills; allow the application of knowledge to new situations, and helped to identify gaps in knowledge to direct further study. Staff found the activities innovative and exciting learning tools for the students. The Session 4 activities described here are useful educational resources that could be adapted for other PBL courses in a wide variety of subject areas.