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Special Article
September 1999

Problem-Based Learning in Ophthalmology: A Pilot Program for Curricular Renewal

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (Dr Farrell) and the Office of Medical Education Research and Development (Dr Albanese), University of Wisconsin, Madison; and the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City (Dr Pomrehn).

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(9):1223-1226. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.9.1223

Objectives  To gain experience with problem-based learning as a demonstration project in a medical school's curriculum renewal effort and determine if using a single facilitator to circulate among the small groups would yield positive results.

Design  We developed 16 cases around 4 ophthalmic problems that were used in 3-hour small-group sessions during the Introduction to Clinical Medicine semester of the second-year curriculum. A single faculty member facilitated the small groups of 4 students each that were created by self-division at each of 5 sessions.

Setting  A state-supported large Midwestern medical school.

Participants  All students (N=75) enrolled in the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course prior to their standard introductory ophthalmology lectures.

Main Outcome Measures  A 5-item pretest, related to each of that day's clinical problems, was administered at the beginning and again at the end of the session as a posttest. A satisfaction questionnaire with Likert-type questions was also completed by the students at the close of the session.

Results  Knowledge scores showed statistically significant gains with a mean of 1.7 points. Student satisfaction was very positive—85% stated that they learned more than they would have in the traditional format and 93% agreed that they enjoyed the problem-based learning format.

Conclusions  A single facilitator successfully managed small groups of students in a modified problem-based learning format that produced significant knowledge gains and high student satisfaction. This positive experience was one of the factors that led to adoption of problem-based learning into the curriculum.