Examining the perceptions and practices of undergraduate dental students and facilitators about Problem-based Learning (PBL) instructional approach in the United Arab Emirates

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Problem-based learning is useful learner-centered instructional approach in which learners collaborate within small groups to solve an authentic ill-structured problem that has no right or wrong answers. However, designing and facilitating problem-based learning can be challenging for instructors as well as instructional designers, especially for learning dental education. Recently many medical and dental schools globally have included PBL in their curricula. Therefore, recently no one has questioned whether the outcomes expected of the learner in a PBL setting are applicable to students from different cultural upbringings. The aim of this study was to examine the perceptions and practices of students and facilitators about PBL as teaching method and what are the issues that have arisen based on their experience and knowledge. The study conducted in fall semester 2017 in dental school in a major governmental university in the United Arab Emirates. A survey instrument designed with twenty-one statements rated on a Likert scale (i.e., from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”) delivered to 340 dental students (n=400) and 82.5% of the students (n=330) completed the questionnaire. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with four PBL dental educators to provide knowledge and insights about the challenges they experienced, as well as identifying the key elements of problem-based learning in higher education. Main results included the PBL teaching method was favored by the students as well as their educators. One sample T test for the gender responses were T = - 0.620 and P-value = 0.535 showed no significant difference while One-way ANOVA were T = 4.518 and P-value = 0.001 found significant different between study level in problem-based Learning, ordered, as expected, as follows: Year 5 > Year 4 > Year 3 = Year 2 = Year 1. To conclude the facilitators of PBL and their students appear to be very positive about their experience on PBL in their curriculum. The positive and negative observations appear to be similar in both male and female questionnaire results the difference arose in the year of study the other main finding that there a clear support for the traditional lecture format. Also, a major result of the study indicated that teachers have good pedagogical knowledge about PBL, and have developed their practices but not at the same level of their knowledge.
problem-based learning, dental education, undergraduate dental students, facilitators