The effect of pharmacology teaching on diverse learners in a problem-based learning (PBL) medical curriculum

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

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


Background and aims/objectives: Effective pharmacology learning can contribute to preparing medical students to become safe prescribers. PBL was introduced to address the limitations of passive teaching in medical education. We sought to investigate the effectiveness of pharmacology teaching on diverse learners in a PBL setting.
Methods: All Year 1 students, of the 4-year undergraduate medical programme, at St George’s University of London and University of Nicosia, were invited to participate. A 50-item single-best-answer test assessed pharmacology knowledge in the beginning (pre-test) and end (post-test) of the academic year. Student characteristics investigated included age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, educational background, native language, PBL experience and academic ability. The effect of learning style and learning approach were assessed using the VARK (Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, Kinesthetic) and Study Process questionnaires, respectively. Non-parametric tests (Mann-Whitney U-test, Wilcoxon signed-rank test, Spearman’s correlation) investigated potential correlations between learner characteristics and pharmacology performance.
Results: 74 students participated in the study. A statistically significant increase in performance was noted in the post-test as compared to the pre-test (pre-test: mean 19.38; SD: 4.38; post-test: mean: 29.57; SD: 5.41; p<0.05). While the performance was not correlated with the aforementioned demographic characteristics, significant correlations were identified with approach to learning and learning style. Specifically, surface learning was predictive of lower performance at the pre-test (rs = -0.26, p < 0.05). Interestingly, this correlation was not significant at the post-test. The kinaesthetic learning style was associated with better performance in the post-test, independent of academic ability.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that pharmacology teaching in a PBL-based curriculum may be effective for diverse learners, including surface learners. Kinaesthetic learners may benefit to a greater extend from PBL.

Funding: The project was funded by the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation under the Excellence Hubs Programme (EXCELLENCE/0918).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2021


  • Problem-Based-Learning
  • Pharmacology
  • Effective Learning


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