Research methods for undergraduate delivery: Evaluation of problem-based learning

  • Poovendhree Reddy Durban University of Technology, South Africa
Keywords: Research methods, Problem-based learning, Research methods instruction, Undergraduate research, Self-directed learning


Research methods are considered a complex and difficult subject to teach and there is limited data on innovative ways to teach it to undergraduate public health professionals. Although problem-based learning (PBL) is a common approach in various disciplines, little is published on its use in developing research skills within the South African context. This paper outlines the delivery of an undergraduate research methods course with an evaluation of the problem based learning approach with respect to student experience and competence.
A cross sectional descriptive case study was conducted among the students of Environmental Health within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology. All students enrolled for 2015 were invited to participate. Questionnaires were administered after each section and at the end of the Research Methods course. Participants were required to recall how they experienced different sections of the course and to self-reflect on perceived competency post-delivery.
Participants reported that they benefitted from the PBL approach and indicated that independent learning helped to develop skills that they could transfer to their professional environment. They enjoyed group interactions and private consultations with the instructor, but expressed difficulty with the literature review, choosing and summarising relevant information and statistical concepts and terminology. The final proposal was a ‘light bulb’ moment and participants successfully converted their research problem into a proposal. Problem-based learning may be used as a successful strategy for skills development in research methods courses.


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