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When dentistry students are asked to say something about PBL or problem-based learning curriculum, only a few of them will give you a positive feedback. Why is this so? Why do most students hate this type of curriculum? Let us take a look at what PBL curriculum is all about and what are the major benefits it can offer you. We will also quote some of the feedback provided by dentistry students.
Quoted below are some of the negative feedback we got from a student doctor forum.
"You either have a bad lab partner or be working on a group project where half the people don't pull their weight. Imagine doing that for 4 years. That's why PBL sucks."
"Why you pay so much to study for yourself?"
"PBL is so expensive and still, I have to pay another person to help me study the case."
"The motto "git er done and move on" is unfortunately felt by many students in the PBL system; however, this is not the approach one should take. For one, you're just wasting your time sitting through cases (why do it if you're not going to learn to be a better diagnostician), and two, it solidifies the fact that most students can care less about problem-solving and more about the outcome of exams and memorize material (usually because it's much easier)."
"I think PBL works for some people. I think it worked for one guy in my group who used to run his mouth for the whole group. It works for people who like to think they are teaching the rest of the group, while others painfully endure the hours."
Benefits of problem-based learning
More and more medical and dental schools around the world are now moving towards implementing problem-based learning because of the many benefits it provides.
Some of these benefits are as follows:
- It promotes self-responsibility and self-motivation to learn.
- It motivates students to learn from experience, enabling them to know how to effectively organize and apply what they have learned and to understand each problem better.
- It helps in cultivating the student's curiosity towards certain areas and in developing skills and independence critical for life-long and self-directed learning.
- It aids in developing student's skills in communication, research, and teamwork.
- It is an effective way to integrate knowledge with practice.
- It makes learning more effective and enjoyable.
- It allows students to be more reflective, to analyze problems, and to learn how to assess not only their own but also the works of others.
Our take on PBL:
PBL can be an effective way to learn dentistry, but it is absolutely not for everyone. A dental student who is more dependent on reading the slides of his instructor or listening to the lectures of his professor but is not willing to exert more effort in learning by himself or perhaps who want an easier way to pass his course, this curriculum may not be ideal for him.
On the other hand, a student who is eager to learn more by himself through extensive reading of case studies and resources than to just sit down in a classroom setting and do nothing but depend on what information his professor will feed him can find PBL curriculum a good choice. Also, when it comes to mastering how to use different types of dental tools, equipment, devices, and precision instruments like dental loupes and headlight, self-motivated students tend to advance quicker than those who just rely on their professors.