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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Teaching statistics to medical students using problem-based learning: the Australian experience

J Martin Bland

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom

BMC Medical Education 2004, 4:31  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-4-31

Published: 10 December 2004

Abstract

Background

Problem-based learning (PBL) is gaining popularity as a teaching method in UK medical schools, but statistics and research methods are not being included in this teaching. There are great disadvantages in omitting statistics and research methods from the main teaching. PBL is well established in Australian medical schools. The Australian experience in teaching statistics and research methods in curricula based on problem-based learning may provide guidance for other countries, such as the UK, where this method is being introduced.

Methods

All Australian medical schools using PBL were visited, with two exceptions. Teachers of statistics and medical education specialists were interviewed. For schools which were not visited, information was obtained by email.

Results

No Australian medical school taught statistics and research methods in a totally integrated way, as part of general PBL teaching. In some schools, statistical material was integrated but taught separately, using different tutors. In one school, PBL was used only for 'public health' related subjects. In some, a parallel course using more traditional techniques was given alongside the PBL teaching of other material. This model was less successful than the others.

Conclusions

There are several difficulties in implementing an integrated approach. However, not integrating is detrimental to statistics and research methods teaching, which is of particular concern in the age of evidence-based medicine. Some possible ways forward are suggested.