Year

1998

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Nursing

Abstract

Problem-based learning has been advocated by many educators as a promising educational strategy. Yet, despite the various studies, there is inconclusive evidence about the effectiveness of problem-based learning.

The purpose of this research study was twofold. Firstly, problem-based learning implemented as an attempt to enhance student nurse educators' dispositions to critical thinking and to promote a deep approach to learning. While the inclination to think critically and the adoption of a deep approach to learning are important to all professional nurses, this researcher has targeted the study on a group of student educators. As role models to future generations of nurses, these nurse educators influence the attitudes of their students in thinking and learning. Two outcome were used. The dispositions toward critical thinking were assessed using the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) while the Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) was used to measure the approaches to learning. The research involved a 14-experimental period and a follow-up period six months later. A quasi-experimental 'Untreated Control Group Design with Pretest and Posttest' as described by Cook Campbell (1979) was employed to determine the outcome measures. The original design was modified with the addition of a follow-up study. A total of 27 participants involved, representing 100% of the total number of student nurse educators in Hong Kong in 1996-1997. The findings show that problem-based learning could be an effective intervention to promote the dispositions toward analyticity, systematicity, critical thinking self-confidence and cognitive maturity. Moreover, six months after the experiment, the experiment group was still showing positive inclination to these dispositions. In terms of the dispositions toward truth-seeking, open-mindedness and inquisitiveness, there was no significant difference between the experimental and control groups at the end of, and six months after the experiment. Thus, there is no evidence to suggest that problem-based learning has a significant effect on these three dispositions. In the context of approaches to learning, there was no significant difference between the experimental and control groups in the surface, deep and achieving approaches before, at the end of, and six months after the experiment.

Secondly, the study investigated the factors that might have influenced the results of the outcome measures. Qualitative interviews were conducted immediately after the experiment and six months later. The qualitative data show that the disposition toward truth-seeking could be affected by culture and the pursuit of truth may be sacrificed for the sake of maintaining social harmony in the Chinese culture. Moreover, problem-based learning offers students the opportunity to work with problem situations and improve their problem-solving skills, which in turn could help them develop positive dispositions toward analyticity, systematicity, critical thinking self-confidence and cognitive maturity.

In the light of these findings, it is important that continuing effort be made to monitor effects of problem-based learning in nursing education.

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