Problem-Based Learning in Physician Assistant Education at a University in Eastern South Carolina: Improving an Active Learning Pedagogy
School of Education
Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)
Bunnie L. Claxton
Problem-based Learning, Physician Assistant Education, Student Learning Outcomes, Critical Thinking
Wade, Marvin S., "Problem-Based Learning in Physician Assistant Education at a University in Eastern South Carolina: Improving an Active Learning Pedagogy" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 2336.
The purpose of this applied study was to solve the problem of designing and delivering a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum which enhances students’ critical thinking and prepares physician assistant (PA) students to pass a national certifying examination at a small university in eastern South Carolina. A multi-methods approach utilizing concepts from qualitative and quantitative research was used. The study was guided through a central research question: How can the problems of problem-based learning be improved in PA education at a university in eastern South Carolina? Deeper understanding is discovered through the sub-questions: (a) how would PA education faculty in an interview solve the problems of problem-based learning at a university in eastern South Carolina? (b) how would students in a survey solve the problems of problem-based learning at a university in eastern South Carolina? (c) how would data from student surveys and standardized multiple-choice question instruments provide information related to the problems of problem-based learning at a university in eastern South Carolina? Data collection included personal interviews with five PA faculty, 15 student surveys and documents. Data analysis included bracketing, horizonalization, and coding for themes as well as transformation of data into means and frequencies with triangulation as a parallel analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. The data was analyzed to develop themes which produced three solutions to the problem. The solutions identified were a more thorough alignment of curriculum content across the program, improved faculty facilitation of PBL coursework, and restructuring the peer interactions to include more small group activities, role-playing, and use of patient simulators. Keywords: problem-based learning, physician assistant education, student learning outcomes, critical thinking