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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter June 13, 2016

Does enhancing consciousness for strategic planning processes support the effectiveness of problem-based learning concepts in biomedical education?

  • V. Arling EMAIL logo , J. Knispel , A. Ritter and M. Baumann


Interdisciplinary skills gain increasing importance in university and professional contexts. To support these interdisciplinary skills, problem-based learning (PBL) is regularly used in a course for biomedical education. In this study, we investigated whether enhancing consciousness for planning processes can support the effectiveness of PBL concepts in an intervention-control group design. Results indicated clear evidence for this: planning skills were associated with better PBL performance. Concluding, self-reflection of planning skills is useful to increase outcome performance of students in PBL courses.

1 Introduction

Facing the increasing importance of interdisciplinary skills in both university and professional contexts, supporting didactic concepts must be identified, installed and evaluated. Therefore, we introduced in 2011 first problem-based learning (PBL) sets in the course "Introduction to Medicine for Nature Scientists and Engineers". Comprising seven steps of a structured problem solving process, necessary skills like teamwork, self-organization, time management and assignment of responsibility are being developed further [1, 2]. However, practice shows that a major part of the participating students lack of basic skills like planning, communication or assignment of tasks. Learners’ deep understanding PBL requires self-reflection on one’s own behavior and learning. Making aware that underlying planning processes are determining factors can facilitate self-reflection during the process of problem solving. Hence, the PBL courses were extended to cover instructions and exercises on planning expertise

2 Methods

The study used an intervention (81 students) and control (43 students) group design. To PBL case (2 × 2 hours) courses on planning structure (2 hours) and teamwork (1.5 hours) were added. These courses were framed by two planning games ("Tour-Planer" and "Routen-Planer" [3]), by which students were stimulated to additionally reflect their own behavior [4]. After PBL course, both participating students and supervising tutors were asked to evaluate team performance and team coordination processes.

3 Results

Planning skills were enhanced after the training sessions. The intervention group’s self-evaluation revealed an enhanced recognition of the own planning competences, which mirrors the tutors’ evaluation results of the respective teams. The follow-up survey showed a high level of acceptance and that students appreciated the interventions.

4 Conclusion

The study gives plain hints that through raising the awareness of planning competences, PBL enhances the level of reaching the learning aims and thus is a very promising concept. Self-reflection of the students’ behavior during these interventions supports them in their future businesses of problem-solving and team interaction.


There was no research grant support.

Authors Statement

Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest. Material and Methods: Informed consent: Informed consent has been obtained from all individuals included in this study. Ethical approval: The research related to human use has been complied with all the relevant national regulations, institutional policies and in accordance the tenets of the Helsinki Declaration, and has been approved by the authors’ institutional review board or equivalent committee.


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Published Online: 2016-6-13
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

© 2015 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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