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For the partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of



Dr. Snigdha Dash Nikhil Yadav
(Assistant Professor) 17GSOB201022

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In a survey was conducted by the Trinity Inclusive Curriculum Strategy (TIC) and Problem
Based Learning (PBL) practitioners to allow students registered on programmes using PBL
to give feedback on their experience of PBL as a learning process. One hundred and sixty
five (165) students completed this survey. The aim of the survey was:
- to explore students experiences of PBL as a pedagogic process,
- to identify facilitators and barriers to engagement in PBL, particularly for non-traditional
- to compare positive and negative experiences of PBL in order to identify specific PBL
practices that support inclusion,
- to enhance inclusivity by identifying and disseminating good practice, and identifying
areas for improvement.

This report will outline the key findings. This is an exploratory piece of research into the
perceptions of PBL by different student groups. For statistically significant results are larger
scale survey would need to be carried out.

Survey questions were devised in consultation with key stakeholders including academics
involved in Problem Based Learning, and the Disability Service. Student feedback was
also sought before finalising the questions. Questions were grouped into the following
Initial meeting / tutorial,
Self-directed study,
Second meeting / tutorial,
Roles within PBL,
Feedback within PBL,
The Physical Environment, and
Time spent on PBL.

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While the survey primarily used likert scales, regular opportunities to add further comments
were offered for clarification.

Data Collection and analysis

Students were invited to complete the survey online on Monday February 14 th. The survey
remained open for three weeks. Results were collected anonymously. The survey was sent
to students registered on:
Occupational Therapy,
Dental Science,
Clinical Speech and Language studies.

Filters were applied when analysing data to examine how different student cohorts
responded. Respondents were filtered and analysed based on the access group with
which they were registered, native language, and whether they were international students.
Then, those who identified as international students, as part of an access group, or as a
non-native English speaker were combined to form a non-traditional student filter, and their
responses were compared those classified as traditional students.

Within this report, student responses agree and strongly agree have been combined as
agree; while responses disagree and strongly disagree have been combined as

Range of respondents
The survey was completed by 165 students from across five different programmes.
Respondents can from all four years of the undergraduate programme.

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The process of PBL differs greatly across the five programmes involved in this study. For
PBL is ungraded in some programmes, but accounts for a significant portion of
student grades in others,
PBL is the main teaching method in some courses, while in others it supplements
traditional lectures,
Students engage in PBL in separately scheduled small group tutorials in some
programmes, while in others large class groups separate into smaller groups for
discussion and return to the large group to agree learning goals.
Due to these differences, the respondents do not form a homogenous group, and issues
that may arise for some, may not arise for others.

Respondent statistics
One hundred and sixty five (165) students responded to the survey, with 149 (90%)
completing it fully. Forty-four (27%) students self-identified as belonging to a non-traditional
cohort, where non-traditional cohorts were identified as:
Students with Disabilities,
TAP students,
Mature students,
International students,
Students with English as a second language.

Eight students belong to two of the above categories. Six international students had English
as a second language; there was one mature TAP student and one non-native English
speaking TAP student.

One hundred and four (63%) indicated that they belong to no non-traditional cohort, and
seventeen (10%) students did not provide sufficient information to indicate either way. One
hundred and thirty seven (137 / 83%) respondents indicated that English was their first

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Overall, there was not enough respondents from each non-traditional cohort to allow for
statistically significant results.

Figure 1 - breakdown between traditional / non-traditional

Figure 2 - breakdown showing the individual non-traditional groupings

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Figure 3 - breakdown between courses.

Seven respondents indicated that they studied pharmacy, twenty five Clinical Speech,
thirty four Occupational Therapy, thirty five Medicine, thirty three Dentistry, and thirty one
did not specify.

Figure 4 - respondent levels

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Initial Meeting / Tutorial
Generally, students expressed high confidence in the initial meeting with most students
confident in their understanding of principles and processes, and their ability to engage
effectively in the initial tutorial. Issues arose however, regarding students confidence in
their choice of learning goals, with 50% of students confident that their chosen goals were
relevant and useful and 26% lacking confidence.

Key differences traditional non-traditional

Statement Traditional Non-
I actively participate in identification of key issues in the 77% 61%
learning trigger / scenario confidence confidence
I can confidently participate in determining my groups learning 69% 59%
goals confidence confidence

Non-Native speakers showed less confidence in ability to participate in the identification of

key issues (27% lacked confidence compared to 10% of native speakers). These students
also felt less able to put ideas forward in brainstorming (36% confidence against 82% of
native speakers, and 36% lack of confidence against 8%).

These students felt less confident participating in determining learning goals (36%
confidence against 69% confidence of native speakers, and 36% lack of confidence
against 16% lack with native speakers). These students also had less confidence in the
relevance of learning goals (27% had confidence compared to 50% of native speakers).

International students also showed less confidence in their ability to participate in the
identification of key issues (45% against 77% of traditional students and 61% of non-
traditional students). These students were less likely to report confidence participating in
determining learning goals (46% against 69% of traditional students and 59% of non-
traditional students overall).

Open ended responses addressed the following issues:

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Nine discussed a lack of confidence setting relevant learning goals and knowing
that the subsequent study is relevant and useful.
Eight reported that they would prefer lectures only, or would prefer PBL to support
lectures rather than being a stand alone learning method. This also arose under the
responses to the second meeting.
Six stressed the importance of guidance by a knowledgeable tutor.
Five stressed the time commitment.
Five stressed the need for some prior knowledge in a topic to make it meaningful.

Independent Study
Nearly a quarter of respondents lacked confidence regarding their ability to engage in
effective study (56% confidence, 23% lack of confidence).

Second Meeting / Tutorial

Students reported various issues in the second meeting / tutorial. Only 59% felt they had
opportunity to discuss learning related to learning goals, against 22% who disagreed.

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Many also felt they lacked opportunity to demonstrate understanding (32% agreement with
this statement against 53% disagreement). Only 49% felt they had sufficient opportunity to
question their peers, against 26% who disagreed.

Key differences traditional non-traditional

Statement Traditional Non-traditional
I get sufficient opportunities to question other 45% agree 55% agree
students about their contributions to the discussion 30% disagree 18% disagree

International students were less likely to agree that they had sufficient opportunity to
question peers (36% agreed versus 45% of traditional students and 61% of non-traditional
students excluding international students), though none disagreed with the statement.

TAP students were more likely to agree that they had sufficient opportunity to question
peers (63% agreed versus 45% of traditional students and 53% of non-traditional students
excluding TAP students).

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The open ended responses addressed many of the same issues as those of the first
meeting / tutorial, including the importance of tutor guidance, and the preference for
lectures either as a sole learning method or combined with PBL. Also:
Eight discussed how group dynamics can have a good or bad effect on the learning
Four suggested giving reading lists for independent study.

Students were generally happy that they had the opportunity to perform the roles of chair
(84% agreement versus 13% disagreement) and scribe / secretary (85% agreement
versus 8% disagreement). Students are quite confident in their performance as secretary
(79% confidence), while 68% are confident in their performance as chair.

Key differences traditional non-traditional
Statement Traditional Non-traditional
I am confident to undertake the role of Chairperson 65% agree 75% agree
22% disagree 11% disagree

Both Mature students and TAP students reported greater confidence when acting as chair
(89% and 88% agreed to the statement respectively), while non-native speakers reported
less (36% agreed to the statement compared to 70% of native speakers). Non-native
speakers also reported less confidence when acting as scribes (55% versus 79%)

Open ended responses addressed the following issues:

Five felt that the role of scribe / secretary was insignificant as all participants take
their own notes,
Four reported that not everyone gets the opportunity to take on all roles,
One student reported that their lack of confidence as secretary / scribe was due to

Evaluation and Feedback

Many students are dissatisfied with the amount of evaluation and feedback they were
provided with, and the amount they can give. The most satisfaction was found with
evaluation of group participation in PBL, where 67% were satisfied, and 14% dissatisfied.

Answer Options Agree Neutral Disagree

I have no difficulty in questioning the tutor
and/or seeking clarification from the tutor
54% 18% 28%
regarding issues that arise relating to the
PBL process
There is not enough opportunities to
discuss, and provide feedback, on how my 47% 18% 34%
group functions during PBL tutorials
I am able to evaluate my own, and, my
groups learning outcomes at the end of the 53% 26% 20%
PBL tutorial.
I am able to evaluate my own, and my
67% 19% 14%
groups participation in PBL activities.
I am happy with the amount and type of
feedback provided by my tutors regarding 42% 21% 37%
the learning outcomes of my groups.

I am happy with the amount and type of
feedback provided by the tutor regarding 41% 22% 37%
my groups participation in PBL activities.
I have opportunity to evaluate my tutors
43% 18% 38%
performance within the PBL process.

Key differences traditional non-traditional

Statement Traditional Non-traditional
I have no difficulty in questioning the tutor and/or seeking Agree 48% Agree 66%
clarification from the tutor regarding issues that arise relating Disagree Disagree 16%
to the PBL process 33%
I am able to evaluate my own, and my groups, participation Agree 71% Agree 57%
in PBL activities.

Non-native speakers felt they had more chance to question tutors and request clarifications
(73% agreement versus 52% amongst native speakers).

Mature students felt less able to evaluate their groups participation, at 50% agreement
(67% overall, and 58% for non-traditional students excluding mature), and 28%
disagreement (14% overall, and 12% for non-traditional students excluding mature). Non-
native speakers also reported less ability to evaluate group participation (55% agreement
versus 68% for native speakers).

Open ended responses addressed the following issues:

Eight stated they did not have an opportunity to evaluate tutors / or evaluation was
Eight noted that tutors can be unhelpful.
Six noted that the quality of tutors was inconsistent.

Physical Environment
Students were generally satisfied with the physical environment.

Key differences traditional non-traditional
Statement Traditional Non-traditional
The physical environment is suitable for me to participate in 65% agree 77% agree
PBL (e.g. room and furniture layout, acoustics, lighting).

No international student expressed dissatisfaction with the physical environment, though

25% of TAP students did.

PBL Overall
Over a third of respondents stated that PBL was not an effective learning method (38%,
against 48% who thought it was). Furthermore, 60% felt it did not prepare them for exams,
against 17% who thought it did. This raises the question of alignment between teaching
and assessment methods. Over half (54%) of students thought PBL prepared them for
professional life, against 28% who thought it did not.

Key differences traditional non-traditional
Statement Traditional Non-traditional
I am confident that PBL prepares me for my exams Agree 10% Agree 32%
Disagree 66% Disagree 48%

All non-traditional student groups had higher levels of agreement than the general
population with the above statement:
TAP students (50%),
Mature students (33%),
International students (27%),
Non-native speakers (27%), and
Disability (25%).

What makes PBL a positive / negative learning experience?
Students were asked to describe what makes a PBL session a positive or negative
learning experience. The following themes arose:
Twenty- five highlighted the importance of group dynamics. Five noted that positive
group dynamics improve PBL, while twelve noted bad dynamics make it ineffective,
eight noted that uneven group participation can cause problems,
Twelve stated that the benefit of PBL did not match the time and effort in required,
Eleven noted that knowledgeable tutors improve the learning experience,
Nine responded that they found PBL generally more effective for learning,
Seven noted that lack of guidance on learning goals can make the process
ineffective and futile,
Six noted that PBL worked well when combined with lectures,
Six reported that PBL does not cover exam material.

Time spent on PBL

Nearly half (47%) of students spent three hours or less on PBL a week, 23% spent more
than six hours.

Key differences traditional non-traditional

Hours spent preparing 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-10 10+
Traditional 14% 38% 28% 14% 7%
Non-Traditional 0% 36% 32% 21% 11%
Students groups who spent less time included TAP, where only 13% spend six hours or
more and non-native speakers, where only 9% spend six hours or more.

Nearly a third (30%) of international students spent over six hours, with only 18% spending
three or less. One third (33%) of mature students spent over six hours, while one third also
spent three hours or less.

Three of the four students with a disability reported spending over 6 hours.

This survey indicated that non-traditional students had no greater difficulties with PBL than
traditional students. The issues faced by both cohorts seem generally to be the same.
While there are indications that specific student cohorts may find some aspects of PBL
more accessible than their peers, the sample was not large enough to draw any
statistically significant conclusions.

While this is a useful exploratory piece on the perceptions of PBL by traditional and non-
traditional cohorts, it is recommended that a larger survey be carried out in order to
complete a full analysis of arising issues.

Appendix 1 - Survey
Original format of the survey is available from

1. Please rate the following statements regarding the initial meeting / tutorial
Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly

I entification of
unde key issues in
rstan the learning
d th trigger /
princi scenario
of, I can put my
and ideas forward
ration during the
ale groups
for brainstorming
PBL. I am able to
identify gaps
I in my
unde knowledge in
rstan relation to the
d th learning
PBL trigger /
Proce scenario
I can
I ca confidently
partic participate in
ipat determining
effect my groups
ively learning goals
in th
initia I am confident
analy that my group
sis chooses
the learning goals
trigge that are
r/ relevant and
scen useful.

2. Would you like to add any further comments?

3. Please rate the following statement regarding independent study within PBL:
Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly
I am confident in
sourcing relevant
learning resources to
acquire knowledge and
understanding of my
groups learning goals
during independent
study time
4. Please rate the following statement regarding the second meeting / tutorial within
Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
I have sufficient Strongly Strongly
opportunities to discuss
my learning related to
my groups learning

I get sufficient
opportunities to
question other students
about their
contributions to the

I can build on the

knowledge that I gained
during independent
study time

I find it difficult to
demonstrate my
understanding of
the learning goal
independent learning.

5. Would you like to add any further comments?

Students and PBL
3. Roles

* 6. Please rate the following statements regarding roles within PBL

Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly
Each person is given
the opportunity to
undertake the role of
chairperson in my
PBL group tutorials

I am confident to
undertake the role of

Each person is given

the opportunity to
undertake the role of
recorder/scribe in my
PBL group tutorials

I am confident to
undertake the role of

7. Would you like to add any further comments?

Students and PBL
4. Feedback

8. Rate the following statements regarding feedback within PBL

Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly
I have no difficulty in I have opportunity to evaluate my tutors performance within
questioning the tutor the PBL process.
and/or seeking clarificatio
the tutor regarding
issues that arise
relating to the PBL

There is not enough

opportunities to discuss
and provide feedback, o
how my group functions
during PBL tutorials

I am able to evaluate
my own, and, my
groups learning
outcomes at the end of
the PBL tutorial.

I am able to evaluate
my own, and my
groups participation in
PBL activities.

I am happy with the

amount and type of
feedback provided by
my tutors regarding the
learning outcomes of
my groups.
I am happy with the
amount and type of
feedback provided by
the tutor regarding my
groups participation in
PBL activities.
9. Would you like to add any further comments?

10. Rate this statement regarding the physical environment in PBL:

Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly
The physical
environment is suitable
for me to participate in
PBL (e.g. room and
furniture layout,
acoustics, lighting).

* 11. Rate these statements regarding PBL overall:

Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree
Strongly Strongly
PBL is an effective
method of learning for

I am confident that PBL

prepares me for my

I am confident that PBL

prepares me for my
future professional life.

Please consider both a good experience and a bad experience you have had with
PBL. Can you identify what made one good and the other bad?
13. How many hours do you spend each week researching and preparing your
learning goals?
0-1 2-3 4-5 6-10 10+

14. Are you (tick all that apply)

Tap Student Mature Student (studying for 1st degree)
Mature Student (studying subsequent degree) Disabled student
International Student

"Mature Student" means one who is at least 23 years of age on the 1st of January of the
year of entry or reentry to their degree programme;

International Student means one whose normal place of residence is outside the
island of Ireland but who is resident in Ireland for the purpose of study over a shorter
or longer period.

"TAP (Trinity Access Programmes)" supports students from underrepresented socio-

economic groups.

15. Is English your first language?

Yes No
16. What are you studying?

17. Are you in:

JF (1st year) JS (3rd year) 5th year or higher

SF (2nd year) Other (please specify) SS (4th year)

18. Would you like to add any further comments or suggestions for enhancing your
experience of PBL?

19. If you would like to be included in the prize draw for 20 euro credit please insert
your email address here.
Seomra 3.06 Room 3.06
3-4 Pls Foster 3-4 Foster Place
Fn / Phone: +353 (1) 896 3666
Appendix 2 - Sample responses to open questions

First Meeting

Unsure of learning goals

1. sometimes it is hard to know what you are meant to be learning. Hindsight makes
it clear but at the time it isn't always clear.
2. It can be a very stressful process and it can be unnerving and add to the stress
that you are unsure if what you are researching is relevant, especially when there
are many other things to complete for college.
3. Would be useful to be guided if goals are inappropriate to our learning process as
part of analysis phase.

Prefer lectures only or lectures to supplement

(also theme under second meeting)

1. good that the PBL supports content from the lectures.

2. Useless, expensive mode of teaching. Large gaps in information. Getting lectures
are straight forward and exam content relevance rather than students participating
solely for the sake of participating irrespective of the information shared. Please
change this nonsense and get us lecture
3. lectures are better and fairer therefore because everyone is given the same
material for the exam and it is a choice to go into more detail or not.
4. some issues addressed in PBL are not suitable for discussion in this way. For
example, immunology is often very clear cut and fact based and therefore requires
very little brainstorming and discussion. A lecture on these concrete topics would
be much better as a student could spend hours on PBL but, depending on the
groups learning goals or the books used, would have very little knowledge of the
material asked in the exams. For this reason, I think PBL is both unfair and
unnecessary. I believe PBL would be useful in some areas of the course, for
example, ethics, as this is a topic which can be discussed and different opinions
are very useful. I heard from one of the tutors that lectures used to be given to
students but in exams students just wrote what was in the lecture notes and for
this reason we now have PBL. This does not make sense to me as students may
still have an excellent understanding of a topic if they learn the lecture notes and
regurgitate this in an exam. PBL does not get around this 'problem' as students
just regurgitate paragraphs from textbooks rather than lecture notes. If lectures
were given with broad notes of areas to cover and the student could then go and
research the topics it could get around this issue. Otherwise, the tutor guidelines
could be given at the end of a PBL block as it would at least guide the students in

the right path rather than having pages of notes which may or may not be
relevant. In conclusion, in theory PBL could be useful but it needs serious changes
and I sincerely hope these ideas are taken on board

Importance of guidance by the tutor

(also theme under second meeting)

1. Also an experienced tutor makes a difference to the level of discussion and my

overall feeling of learning relevant things - experienced tutor guides learning in a
way that it feels the group is discovering it for themselves - an inexperienced tutor
seems more judgemental and secretive and tells the group to go look it up - which
invariably doesnt happen. I found with an experienced tutor, the group was more
motivated to engage in the PBL process
2. Extremely helpful when guided by PBL tutor the crux of each scenario before or
after each session.
3. some tutors are excellent to guide the discussion along the right course. review
sessions after the block are an excellent tool to reinforce the material.

Time commitment
1. It can really add to a very full workload, and I think for some things that lectures
may be more appropriate as some areas may be neglected in a topic if they don't
relate to the problem!!
2. I think PBL is useful but less time should be dedicated to it. 4 hours a week (and
extra time for travelling to and from St James hospital, where the sessions are
often held) is too much particularly with all our other time commitments.
3. I think our PBL lecturer is a bit ridiculous tbh....... like she gives us 8 hrs research
per week and then we spend hours going through it in group, its quite pointless i

Group Dynamics / Personality

(also theme under second meeting)

1. When we change groups sometimes I feel intimidated at first before I get to know
everyone and take very little part in brainstorming for the first session or two. I
know I am not the only one who does this, and once louder people in the group
start to dominate it can be hard to join in.
2. depending on the group you're in its a good or bad experience. The first PBL
group i was in was easy to work in and i felt i learned a lot. This group was a mix
of people who were not all friends. The second PBL group i was in was a group of

my friends - i found we went off topic more and didn't learn as effectively, and
because it was a group of friends the chairperson had a harder time bringing the
group back to task.
3. I find it quite hard to speak up during the brainstorming, I don't really feel confident
discussing a subject if I don't really know much about it.

Unclear expectations
1. From initial I understand to be first PBL session of academic year. The rationale
behind using PBL rather than a traditional tutorial model was not explained or
explored with participants. There was no discussion as to process and
participation should a student have particular knowledge and or experience
relevant to a particular scenario - this very pertinent to mature students. Each
tutor/facilitator seems to understand and practice model differently so 'initial'
session with each new tutor spent trying to understand how they want it applied.
2. Although I understood the concept behind PBL I was ambiguous on what was
actually expected of us, our case wasnt too clear

1. While I feel that the PBL is an invaluable teaching tool, I do feel that some of the
younger years may struggle to see the benefits. It is only when you get to third
year that you really see how the process facilitates learning.
2. I find that my group chooses good learning goals that aim to fill the gaps in our
knowledge, but our lecturer then chooses goals for the whole class so we are not
necessarily researching the areas we identified as being important.
3. It is great that as a group you can work on the gaps in knowledge and individually
we all work on gathering the information.

Second Meeting

Personality / Group dynamics

1. although in principle challenging other people's opinions in an academic fashion
sounds good to do so on such a platform may not be seen in an academic light
and may lead to the person being challenged being insulted
2. not all group members where interested in participating in discussions making it
diffcult to further learning in these meetings
3. In my experience with PBL, the same people dominate (loud, opinionated,
talkative people) preventing others from speaking (quiet, shy people)

Importance of guidance
1. Again would have been v useful to have comprehensive introductory guidelines as
to how this learning model should be used, how much time should be devoted to
it, what reading sources were relevant. Is it to revise, clarify and consolidate class
room based learning or is it to explore rare and unusual conditions and their
2. I am wary of the reliability of some other students information in 2nd PBL
meetings. Tutors should ALWAYS specialise in the area being taught and should
be able to instruct students like a seminar at the end of each session.
3. Better guidelines would help make learning goals that are relevant. It is ridiculous
to expect students to make good learning goals on subjects that they have no
previous knowledge on.

Reading lists
1. Giving the student a list of sources to read will be a good idea.
2. Some problems are easier than others in terms of sourcing reliable reading
material. Recommended reading lists are an excellent tool for students; especially
recommended reading lists tailored to each problem. That way, each student
knows exactly the depth of knowledge required for each problem.
3. For certain topics e.g. Restorative dentistry, the references are not useful.
Providing students with proper learning goals and adequate references would be
more useful. A lot of time is wasted sourcing material which turns out to be

Need some prior knowledge to brainstorm

1. The PBL principle is quite good but has many flaws. Firstly, in some cases we
address issues for the first time in the brainstorming and students have absolutely
no prior knowledge of this topic.
2. Often find the brainstorming session difficult due to lack of prior knowledge with
the topic at hand. Group can often brainstorm off on a tangent if tutor doesn't
guide the group.
3. PBL does not work well when the students know very little about an area and the
tutor does not intervene appropriately.


Scribe insignificant
1. most people like to take their own notes to help them keep on track and the
scribes role can sometimes feel insignificant
2. The job of the secretary has no use/benefit other than to make learning goals.

3. Apart from clarifying learning goals, I find the use of a scribe pointless as the
information is not collaborated and structured well enough in the brainstorming or
reporting phase to be useful at a later date, eg private study.

No opportunity
1. although there is the idea put forward of each person is given the opportunity to
undertake role X, there is always the 'natural choice' of who should undertake
what role.
2. Though we are all encouraged to take on the role of chairperson at some stage in
each block I find that there are still some people who are less confident and do not
put themselves forward for the role. The same group of people tend to dominate
the group discussions in certain groups so that the participation is not equal within
the group.
3. often there are not enough sessions for everyone to be both chair and secretary.
Usually each person takes on one of the roles during the block

1. In my experience, chair and scribe were rotated each week which meant we all
had to experience each role
2. the notes should be typed by the sectary & distributed to the group as a study aid.
3. No reflection on these roles and how group find them to be most usefully
4. my low confidence in being scribe for PBL group is due to dyslexia not reflection
on PBL structure


Opportunity to evaluate tutor

1. I have never had an opportunity to evaluate a tutors performance.
2. We are given the opportunity to evaluate our tutor's performance in the PBL
tutorials. However, this process only takes place AFTER the block has finished. I
feel it would be more effective if the tutors were to be evaluated in the middle of
each block.
3. although feedback sheets are incorporated into the pbl process, despite entire
classes filling out feedback sheets, no action is taken, so even if we can evaluate
tutors the action is pointless

Unhelpful tutors
1. When the tutor is unavailable, a substitute tutor is around (generally a
postgraduate) and conflicting feedback is given, which makes the final product
very difficult to complete
2. The tutors can be very vague with whether you are on the right topic or not, and
this can add to the confusion and uncertainty,
3. A lot of the time the tutor doesn't know enough about the subject to contribute
much to the conversation when asked. The tutors should be specialists in the area
that is being discussed. There are enough specialists and consultants in the
hospital for this to be the case. Also every group has a different tutor, some of
which are experts and can actually teach them what they're supposed to know,
and others who are not and therefore cannot contribute much to the group.
Groups end up with different learning goals and different standards of teaching
and are then expected to sit the same exams. It's totally unfair.

No consistency in tutors participation

1. I am not entirely sure what the role of the tutor is, even at this stage, because for
every pbl problem thus far each tutor has provided different services, some are
noticeably more facilitative, some are somewhat directive, whereas some are
most unwilling to offer any constructive advice. There needs to be greater
continuity amongst the tutors.
2. I found that the advice, support and feedback really depended on the tutor. One
particular tutor really had a negative impact on my learning during a particular PBL
problem as her comments were always negative.
3. Depends on tutor - this year i did not feel supported by a tutor who was less
experienced - last year the tutor was very experienced and i felt feedback was
more effective and we were offered more constructive support. I have based my
answers of my latest (less positive) experience of PBL

1. would be good to have detailed feedback or given extra detail that may have been
missed out in the research process.
2. I think a short summary by the tutor of what the group discussed and application
to practice would be beneficial to wrap up the sessions

3. Certain tutors can throw you off course by emphasising someting that the group
isn't looking at in such a way that other aspects of the exercise are suddenly
abandoned in favour of what tutor has mentioned.

Positive and Negative

Knowledgeable, helpful tutors

1. If you have a tutor who has a background in the problem, this is very helpful for
exams as they will be aware of the important pieces of information and direct the
group in an exam focused manner.
2. My best experiences have been in groups where the tutor provided feedback at
the end of the session
3. Good experience - having a session with an expert who told us what we needed to
know (which for some reason is usually confidential - "tutor guidelines"), asked us
relevant questions on our return and gave invaluable teaching on the subject that
you cannot get from books. I got more information in that session than I could get
from a lecture because it was an intimate setting and therefore very easy to ask

More effective learning generally

1. I really like PBL and I think it's an excellent method for learning. Students have the
opportunity to review material at the brainstorming, in personal study, in discussion
and sometimes after a short seminar from the PBL tutor; therefore knowledge is
retained well. The PBL system is excellent in terms of preparing people for future
professional life.
2. Equal sharing of all resources between all group members is very helpful and
makes finding information easier and thus learning more efficient
3. Obviously the active participation involved in PBL means that you are encouraged
to research and learn the subject which is of course a good way of being prepared
for exams by having notes written out though this does not always work out.

Good if combined with lectures

1. Some things need to be covered by a lecturer in a lecture theatre. It doesn't have
to be a very formal lecture but it is not enough to talk about something once in
PBL and still not understand it. Wrap-up or revision lectures should be offered at
the end of each PBL block of problems. Not necessarily everything would need to
be discussed again but students could ask a lecturer to explain difficult concepts.
This could be particularly useful as in some instances your tutor for a certain block
may have expertise in that area and may not be able to offer any additional help
than their tutor guidelines.
2. As a mature student with a background in science, I find PBL an excellent
teaching method and a breath of fresh air when compared to traditional didactic
teaching methods. PBL is perfect for a post-graduate or advanced course but as

an undergraduate course it probably requires supplementary lectures and also a
more precisely defined reading list.
3. They should be used to discuss cases with a clinical after a lecture. Rather than
fundamental concepts

Group dynamic - positive

1. My best experiences have been in groups where conversation is equal among
group members.
2. good: working in a group where everyone does some preparation and is willing to
3. I enjoyed the last PBLs of a block because the group knew each other well then,
so there was a good amount and quality of discussion.
4. Sometimes when the whole session turns into a gossip session, including a tutor,
we can have a bit of craic. However, this doesnt prepare me much for my exams,
just like going to the pub to have a bit of craic wont either.
5. Bad PBL-same loud, bossy people dominate and prevent others from contributing
by talking over them,
6. A bad experience was when the chair was dominating the discussion and not
allowing anyone or inviting anyone to contribute.
7. I found that when I talk sometimes people don't understand it well...maybe
because of my English is rather weak. Because of that, they don't respond to my
opinion. That makes me feel dejected a bit...

Uneven group contribution

1. Bad: depending on others to work well. You need to be sure that every member of
the group will work to the same standard "you are only as strong as your weakest
2. The group dynamic makes a lot of difference - my worst PBL experiences have
been in groups where 1 or 2 people dominate the conversation...or where the tutor
did too much talking/interjecting into conversation.
3. The bad experience was when the group number was too big for a good and
useful 'SGL', as I tried to allow the quieter ones to talk, but they didn't seem to
want to contribute much.

Time-consuming compared to outcomes

1. PBL is a constant chore that overworks students relative to how much they get out
of it. I have never managed to complete my research on a problem only to find

that another group came up with other important information relevant to exams or
clinical work that our supervisor didnt tell us about or someone else in my group.
2. but it has made advanced learning extremely time consuming and cumbersome
and with the end result not even guaranteeing you have learnt the correct material
3. However, a lot of preparation work is required, as is a good understanding of the
basics of each subject. This is often a struggle for students coming straight from a
leaving cert environment.

Different / wrong learning goals

1. Bad experience - being in a group with a tutor who doesn't know anything about
the subject while everyone tries to talk about something they don't know anything
about and then ending up with completely different learning goals than the other
groups. Useless.
2. bad--- everyone has different learning goals between groups - everyone studies
different things for the exams
3. Bad- not being taught key points due to different tutors. Often learn through word
of mouth between groups with a more active tutor.

Dont cover exam material

1. Bad- topics that came up in exams were covered by some groups and not
others....depending on the tutor's area of interest
2. bad- not really sure whether the learning goals cover everything that we have to
know for the exams
3. However, depending on the student or what group a student is in, material is
studied to various different depths and people are unsure on what exactly they will
be examined on.