Purpose: Physician Assistant (PA) programs using problem-based learning (PBL) and other self-directed learning pedagogies must inform applicants of the nature of this type of curriculum. The purpose of this study is to determine if the author-composed PBL Readiness Questionnaire can detect changes in applicant expectations of self, others, and facilitators following a one-hour PBL experience.

Method: Applicants to a Physician Assistant program took part in a one-hour PBL experience as part of their admissions interview process and 729 completed the PBL Readiness Questionnaire before and after the experience.

Results: Analysis of variance showed a significant increase in pre versus post total score (p = .000). Multivariate analysis of variance of pre versus post subscale scores of expectations of self, others, and facilitators was also significant (p = 0.000). Conclusions: The PBL Readiness Questionnaire significantly changed applicant expectations of self, others, and facilitators in the direction consistent with PBL pedagogy. PA programs using problem-based learning and/or other self-directed learning pedagogies could use this scale to detect changes in applicant expectations following admissions processes. Future studies could determine effectiveness of scores in predicting student outcomes.

Keywords: problem-based learning, admissions, small group learning, pedagogy, case based learning

Author Bio(s)

Susan Hawkins, MSEd., PA-C, is an associate professor and Problem-based Learning (PBL) Coordinator in the Physician Assistant Studies program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She also does PBL trainings for faculty nationwide and serves as an ARC-PA accreditation site visitor.

John Laird, ND is an associate professor in the Physician Assistant Studies program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he teaches the basic medical sciences. He also has a clinical practice in naturopathic medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Anthony J. Goreczny, Ph.D. is a professor in the Counseling Psychology program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA,. He maintains a private practice with interests in the areas of Developmental Disabilities, Health Psychology, Assessment, Clinical and Educational Psychology, and Ethical, Legal and Psychological Implications of Genetics Technologies.


The authors wish to acknowledge Mark Hertweck, MA, PA-C for his work in the development and administration of the PBL Readiness Questionnaire as well as early development of the study.




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