Comparative study of problem based learning versus structured group discussion in teaching pharmacology

Laveesh M. R., Vishwaprakash M. K., Somashekara S. C.


Background: Pharmacology for undergraduate students is taught primarily with a drug centric approach using didactic lectures. Hence the students can’t correlate the drug with the disease and loses interest in the subject. Problem based learning (PBL) on the other hand involves effort from the students themselves which gives them a sense of ownership and helps to enhance their analytical skills. Structured group discussion (SGD) is used to enable students’ directed learning where they are given structured objectives on the topic followed by a discussion.

Methods: This was a quasi-experimental study done on 100 second year MBBS students. They were divided into 2 groups (group A and B) of 50 each. Group A was allotted a therapeutic problem (PBL) and the group B was assigned structured objectives on the same topic (SGD). Later the groups were switched for PBL and SGD and given another topic. A pre and post-test was conducted using MCQs for each session. Finally a feedback was taken from all the students.

Results: There was a statistically significant gain in knowledge following both the methods of learning. However there was no statistically significant difference in the mean marks between PBL and SGD. Nonetheless the mean for PBL (5.42) in group A and B was greater than that of SGD (5.17) in the same. Students’ feedback was also better for PBL under all the heads.

Conclusions: PBL and SGD are effective small group methods for teaching undergraduate medical students. However learning outcome with PBL is better than SGD.


Structured group discussion, Problem based learning

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