The relationship between perceived learning and student attainment: lectures and problem-based learning sessions

Alison Wills, James Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


There has been a paradigm shift in higher education towards the utilisation of problem-based learning sessions instead of the traditional lecture format which is considered obsolete by detractors and simply convenient by its advocates. This move coincides with research highlighting that active learning strategies promote profound rather than superficial learning, encourage critical thinking and increase student attainment. However, there are limited studies quantifying the attainment of undergraduate students presented with varied pedagogical techniques, and still fewer that assess student perceptions of their own learning. Over four different teaching sessions (two lectures and two problem-based learning), n=94 students completed a 10 question questionnaire comprised of Likeart style questions assessing how advantageous they perceived the teaching strategy implemented to be to their own learning. In addition, n=64 of the students also completed short quizzes at the completion of three out of four of the sessions (one lecture, two problem-based learning sessions) assessing their knowledge of the content covered. There was no significant difference in attainment (quiz score) between the two delivery methods (p = 0.113), however there was a significant difference between individual sessions (p<0.05). Student ratings (total questionnaire score) did not differ between the two delivery methods (p=0.487) or between individual sessions (p=0.748). There was a trend for increased attainment in the problem-based sessions and a decreased student rating in these classes. Findings were in agreement with prior work and highlight the need for a varied approach to teaching in the biological sciences alongside the judicious interpretation of student feedback. Keywords: problem-based learning; lectures; feedback; attainment; student perception
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-377
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of Learning and Teaching
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2017


  • problem-based learning
  • lectures
  • feedback
  • attainment
  • student perception


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