A comparison of problem-based and conventional curricula in nursing education. Academic Article uri icon

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  • The purpose of this study was to compare graduating baccalaureate students in a problem-based curriculum with those in a conventional nursing program with regard to perceived preparation for clinical practice, clinical functioning, knowledge and satisfaction with their education. Prior to graduation, students completed a self-report questionnaire that consisted of five sections and took about 45 minutes to complete. Following graduation, their pass rates on the National Nursing Registration Examination (RN Exam) were also compared. The findings indicated no significant differences in their perceived preparation for nursing practice, although the conventional students scored higher in all areas. There were also no significant differences between the two groups in their perceived clinical functioning, although there was a trend toward higher function in the areas of communication and self-directed learning in the PBL group. There were no statistically significant differences in RN scores. The PBL students scored significantly higher on perceptions of their nursing knowledge, particularly in the areas of individual, family and community health assessment, communication, teaching/learning, and the health care system. The students undertaking the PBL program were more satisfied with their educational experience than their counterparts in the conventional program, indicating higher satisfaction with tutors, level of independence, assessment and program outcomes, but no difference in relation to workload or clarity of expectations. This study contributes to our understanding of the relationship between different educational approaches and student outcomes. It suggests that PBL is an effective approach for educating nurses. Furthermore, it indicates that nursing students in the PBL program, like their counterparts in PBL medical programs, report higher levels of satisfaction. Future studies that are longitudinal in design and rely less on self-report measures would contribute further to our understanding of the benefits and limitations of PBL in nursing education.


  • Rideout, Elizabeth
  • England-Oxford, Valerie
  • Brown, Barbara
  • Fothergill-Bourbonnais, Frances
  • Ingram, Carolyn
  • Benson, Gerry
  • Ross, Margaret
  • Coates, Angela

publication date

  • 2002