Factors Influencing Dental Educators As They Develop Problem-Based Learning Cases


In problem-based learning (PBL) environments, patient cases encourage students’ development of critical thinking and problem-solving. Previous research has found that non-structured patient cases fostered students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities; however, structured cases dominate in dental PBL. The aim of this study was to explore factors influencing educators as they developed cases for a hybrid PBL dental education program in Canada. In this phenomenological study, semi-structured interviews were used to collect seven educators’ experiences with PBL case development. Content analyses with conceptual mapping were triangulated with field notes, researcher memos, and member checking to elucidate codes and themes. There were two major themes and 14 subthemes. The major theme—external factors—involved environmental parameters that influenced educators to develop PBL cases with a definitive problem-solving approach and preferred solution. Structured PBL cases dominated because of limited curricular time for students to explore identified learning issues within a three-session framework. The hybrid PBL dental curriculum further influenced educators to develop structured PBL cases such that content was not duplicated by corresponding lectures. The second major theme—internal factors—encompassed the educators’ beliefs and values about teaching and student learning. These educators were enthusiastic about PBL as an instructional strategy, but did not appear to support the PBL philosophy wherein students engage in self-directed, self-exploratory learning. Structured PBL case development occurred when educators believed students needed content expert guidance. Structured PBL cases dominated in the hybrid PBL program because the educators felt students needed guidance in solving the cases to meet the learning objectives within the limited curricular time.

This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Shelley Kresyman, EdD
Pauline Imai, EdD
Joanna Asadoorian, PhD
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
Journal of Dental Education
June 1, 2016
Date Published: 
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Publication Language: 
Boyer's Domain: 

Additional content will be provided upon request.