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Problem-based learning tutors' beliefs and challenges

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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This study investigated the relationship between tutors’ pedagogical beliefs and their comfort and challenges with the facilitation of Problem-based Learning (PBL) tutorials. Fifty-one tutors from two medical education programs that use a PBL approach participated in this study. The mixed methods study consisted of a researcher created online survey followed by interviews with some of the individuals who completed the survey. Recommended procedures were followed to establish reliability and validity of the survey consisting of descriptions of protypical PBL tutor pedagogical beliefs (Part A), and nondirective facilitation techniques (Part B). Survey results showed a statistically significant relationship between pedagogical beliefs and facilitation comfort with PBL facilitation techniques. Interview data corroborated these findings. Subdivision of pedagogical beliefs into subtypes showed that participants believed more highly in student role and PBL approach beliefs than tutor role beliefs. Although participants were comfortable with both active and passive facilitation techniques, they reported most comfort with active nondirective facilitation techniques. While interviewees indicated that they considered professional background influential on their comfort and success with PBL facilitation, survey results did not show a statistically significant correlation between professional background and facilitation comfort. This study provides a theoretical framework that links PBL to Dewey’s theory of inquiry and theory of experience, and Rogers’s client-centred theory. In this study, participants’ pedagogical beliefs were consistent with those embodied in Barrows’s (1980, 1988, 2007) recommendations and principles for PBL tutors, with Dewey’s (1910, 1938) theory of inquiry and of experience, and with Rogers’s (1942, 1951) client-centered theory. The nondirective facilitation techniques with which participants were comfortable parallel techniques of client-centred theory and therapeutic communication. Seven characteristics of PBL tutors emerged representing an interlocking set that tutors draw upon in their interaction with learners. Further research should be conducted to refine the survey, and investigate factors influencing differences in tutor pedagogical beliefs and the types of nondirective techniques with which they are less comfortable.
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