Comparing problem-based learning students to students in a lecture-based curriculum: learning strategies and the relation with self-study time

Research paper by Marit Wijnen, Sofie M. M. Loyens, Guus Smeets, Maarten Kroeze, Henk van der Molen

Indexed on: 16 Mar '16Published on: 16 Mar '16Published in: European Journal of Psychology of Education


In educational theory, deep processing (i.e., connecting different study topics together) and self-regulation (i.e., taking control over one’s own learning process) are considered effective learning strategies. These learning strategies can be influenced by the learning environment. Problem-based learning (PBL), a student-centered educational method, is believed to stimulate the use of these effective learning strategies. Several aspects of PBL such as discussions of real-life problems, selecting literature by the students themselves, and formulating answers to learning issues encourage students’ use of deep processing and self-regulation. In the present study, third-year PBL law students were compared to third-year law students of a lecture-based program with respect to their learning strategies, which were measured with the Inventory Learning Styles (ILS; Vermunt in British Journal of Educational Psychology, 68, 149–171, 1998). In addition, the relation between time invested in self-study and learning strategies, when taking the instructional method into account, was explored. Results showed that PBL students reported to apply deep processing, self-regulation, and external regulation more frequently than their non-PBL counterparts. PBL seems to contribute to the use of effective learning strategies, but PBL students also relied more often on external sources for their regulation, such as teachers, course material, and assessment.