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      Deep and surface learning in problem-based learning: a review of the literature

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          Abstract

          In problem-based learning (PBL), implemented worldwide, students learn by discussing professionally relevant problems enhancing application and integration of knowledge, which is assumed to encourage students towards a deep learning approach in which students are intrinsically interested and try to understand what is being studied. This review investigates: (1) the effects of PBL on students’ deep and surface approaches to learning, (2) whether and why these effects do differ across (a) the context of the learning environment (single vs. curriculum wide implementation), and (b) study quality. Studies were searched dealing with PBL and students’ approaches to learning. Twenty-one studies were included. The results indicate that PBL does enhance deep learning with a small positive average effect size of .11 and a positive effect in eleven of the 21 studies. Four studies show a decrease in deep learning and six studies show no effect. PBL does not seem to have an effect on surface learning as indicated by a very small average effect size (.08) and eleven studies showing no increase in the surface approach. Six studies demonstrate a decrease and four an increase in surface learning. It is concluded that PBL does seem to enhance deep learning and has little effect on surface learning, although more longitudinal research using high quality measurement instruments is needed to support this conclusion with stronger evidence. Differences cannot be explained by the study quality but a curriculum wide implementation of PBL has a more positive impact on the deep approach (effect size .18) compared to an implementation within a single course (effect size of −.05). PBL is assumed to enhance active learning and students’ intrinsic motivation, which enhances deep learning. A high perceived workload and assessment that is perceived as not rewarding deep learning are assumed to enhance surface learning.

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          Most cited references 44

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          ON QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCES IN LEARNING: I-OUTCOME AND PROCESS*

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            Using student-centred learning environments to stimulate deep approaches to learning: Factors encouraging or discouraging their effectiveness

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              The Conceptual Bases of Study Strategy Inventories

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                00 31 43 388 5730 , d.dolmans@maastrichtuniversity.nl
                Journal
                Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract
                Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract
                Advances in Health Sciences Education
                Springer Netherlands (Dordrecht )
                1382-4996
                1573-1677
                13 November 2015
                13 November 2015
                2016
                : 21
                : 5
                : 1087-1112
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Educational Development and Research, School of Health Professions Education (SHE), Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML), Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands
                [2 ]Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
                [4 ]Management of Learning, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
                [5 ]Department of Training and Education, EduBROn research group, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
                [6 ]Roosevelt Center for Excellence in Education, University College Roosevelt, Middelburg, Netherlands
                Article
                9645
                10.1007/s10459-015-9645-6
                5119847
                26563722
                © The Author(s) 2015

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                Funding
                Funded by: Research Fund University of Antwerp
                Award ID: ID 30369
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Limburg University Fund SWOL
                Categories
                Review
                Custom metadata
                © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

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