Group process in the context of a problem-based learning curriculum
Stec, Thomas Lynn
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The purpose of this study was to examine the problem-based learning (PBL) group process of students in a master's level physical therapy PBL curriculum. The research: (a) compared the observed process to a group process widely described in the literature, and (b) examined the relationship of the group process to a set of factors which could potentially affect the group process. This study attempts to answer the following questions: (a) What occurs in the PBL group process and does it reflect the most widely used PBL group process? and (b) How does the context in which a PBL group operates affect the group process? A case study method was used to answer these questions. Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to evaluate transcriptions of group meetings, interviews, program documents, and questionnaires. Results indicated that variations from the typical PBL group process were present in the study groups. Variations in the group process were noted in: (a) fact gathering, (b) hypothesis generation, (c) identification of learning issues, and (d) group planning. Both groups functioned in an almost identical manner with the exception of some minor difference in the way tutors carried out their roles as facilitators. The context appeared to positively affect the study groups. Students were actively engaged in the group process. Over the period of four group meetings both groups successfully addressed the objectives of a problem. Student responses to questionnaires indicated that they believed the group process promoted learning. The researcher attributed the apparent success of the group process to a culture that supports and promotes the group process.