To examine the effect of a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum on self-directed learning behaviors among a group of pediatric residents.
A controlled comparison study was conducted with 80 pediatric residents at a large urban academic medical center. Residents were observed over 3 distinct but consecutive periods. First, all residents participated in a 3-month-long daily lecture series (pre-exposure phase). Then, for another 3 months, 39 residents (PBL group) were exposed to twice-weekly PBL sessions while 41 residents continued with the daily lectures (lecture-based group) and served as controls. Problem-based learning was withdrawn after 3 months and all residents returned to the lecture series (follow-up phase). Residents' self-directed learning behaviors were assessed through self-administered questionnaires during the pre-exposure, exposure, and follow-up phases.
There were no significant preexposure differences in self-directed learning behaviors between the groups. During the exposure phase, the PBL group had significantly higher self-directed learning: 5 or more hours of independent study (2% vs 7%) (P= .001); 5 or more hours of medical discussions (28% vs 4%) (P= .008); 2 or more computer literature searches (51% vs 30%) (P= .005); and total hours of self-study per week (6 vs 4 hours) (P<.05). At the 3-month follow-up, the PBL group had returned to baseline levels of self-directed learning and there were no significant differences between the groups.
Residents exposed to PBL engaged in significantly higher levels of self-directed learning than their counterparts.