Mapping continuity and change in the intellectual structure of the knowledge base on problem-based learning, 1974–2019: A systematic review

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17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Problem-based learning (PBL) emerged during the 1970s in response to demands for active learning methods capable of developing transferable knowledge and skills in the training of doctors. Over succeeding decades, PBL was gradually adopted in other fields of education. This systematic review aimed to identify key streams of theory and empirical research that have emerged over time in PBL research and practice. The review sourced 12,036 Scopus-indexed documents published between 1974 and 2019. Science mapping was used to reveal the ‘intellectual structure’ or key research themes that have evolved in this literature over the past 45 years. The science mapping tool used in this review was author co-citation analysis conducted in VOSviewer software. Author co-citation analysis identified three schools of thought that together describe the intellectual structure of the PBL knowledge base: Design of PBL Curriculum and Instruction; PBL Effectiveness; Theory and Practice in Active Learning. In addition to portraying the intellectual structure of the literature as a whole, the review also conducted longitudinal analyses aimed at highlighting structural changes in this field over time. These analyses found that although the size and impact of schools of thought associated with Design of PBL Curriculum and Instruction and PBL Effectiveness increased over time, they remained stable in terms of theoretical foci. However, the Active Learning school evolved from a small school of authors associated with Cognitive Learning Theories prior to 2000 into the largest school of thought during the most recent decades. These findings both reaffirm the theoretical underpinnings of the PBL knowledge base and highlight its increasing integration with other forms of active learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1423-1444
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Volume46
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • PBL
  • bibliometric
  • intellectual structure
  • problem-based learning
  • review
  • science mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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