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Nurse Educ Today. 2014 Jan;34(1):52-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2013.02.012. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

Effects of problem-based learning vs. traditional lecture on Korean nursing students' critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-directed learning.

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Chosun Nursing College, Gwangju, South Korea. Electronic address:



Problem-based learning (PBL) is a method widely used in nursing education to develop students' critical thinking skills to solve practice problems independently. Although PBL has been used in nursing education in Korea for nearly a decade, few studies have examined its effects on Korean nursing students' learning outcomes, and few Korean studies have examined relationships among these outcomes.


The objectives of this study are to examine outcome abilities including critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-directed learning of nursing students receiving PBL vs. traditional lecture, and to examine correlations among these outcome abilities.


A quasi-experimental non-equivalent group pretest-posttest design was used.


First-year nursing students (N=90) were recruited from two different junior colleges in two cities (GY and GJ) in South Korea.


In two selected educational programs, one used traditional lecture methods, while the other used PBL methods. Standardized self-administered questionnaires of critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-directed learning abilities were administered before and at 16weeks (after instruction).


Learning outcomes were significantly positively correlated, however outcomes were not statistically different between groups. Students in the PBL group improved across all abilities measured, while student scores in the traditional lecture group decreased in problem-solving and self-directed learning. Critical thinking was positively associated with problem-solving and self-directed learning (r=.71, and r=.50, respectively, p<.001); problem-solving was positively associated with self-directed learning (r=.75, p<.001).


Learning outcomes of PBL were not significantly different from traditional lecture in this small underpowered study, despite positive trends. Larger studies are recommended to study effects of PBL on critical student abilities.


Critical thinking; Problem-based learning; Problem-solving; Self-directed learning

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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