Learning Pharmacology in an Integrated PBL Medical Curriculum: A Mixed Methods Study

Stella Nicolaou, Ioulia Televantou, Alexia Papageorgiou, Anthony Albert, Andrew Hitchings, Peter McCrorie, Persoulla Nicolaou

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Background: Effective pharmacology learning can contribute to safe prescribing. Problem-based learning (PBL) was introduced to address passive teaching limitations. Many unknowns remain about its effectiveness in specific disciplines, including pharmacology. We sought to investigate the effectiveness of PBL pharmacology teaching on diverse learners.
Summary of Work: All Year 1 students of an undergraduate British medical programme at St George’s University of London and the University of Nicosia, were invited to participate in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. Pharmacology knowledge was assessed by a pre- and post-test in the beginning and end of Year 1, respectively. Statistical analysis investigated the effect of student characteristics (age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, educational background, native language) on pharmacology knowledge. Student focus groups and interviews were conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of their learning experience.
Summary of Results: 147 students participated. Students obtained a higher score in the pharmacology post-test, as compared to the pre-test. Students with a background in Biomedical Sciences performed significantly better at the pharmacology pre-test and post-test. Furthermore, students with post-graduate degrees outperformed students with undergraduate degrees in the beginning of the year, but not at the end . When controlling for other variables, a Biomedical Sciences background and a post-graduate degree were correlated with the pre-test but not post-test performance. However, progress in learning, defined as post-test performance after controlling for pre-test scores, showed that educational background had no impact. From a student perspective, their learning experience could be improved by better integration of pharmacology, further references for independent learning, more lectures and content expertise in their PBL groups.
Discussion and Conclusion: Pharmacology teaching in a PBL-based curriculum may be equally effective for diverse learners. However, there is a need for further instructional scaffolding.
Take-home message: Addressing student learning needs could ultimately contribute to reducing medication errors through effective training.

Funding: The project was funded by the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation under the Excellence Hubs Programme (EXCELLENCE/0918).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAMEE, 2022
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2022
EventAMEE - Lyon, France
Duration: 28 Aug 202231 Aug 2022




  • pbl, pharmacology


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