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Simulating an infectious disease outbreak as a problem-based learning experience in a public health education curriculum
DISSERTATION

, Pepperdine University, United States

Pepperdine University . Awarded

Abstract

This study investigates the use of a web-based community health simulation as a problem-based learning (PBL) experience among undergraduate public health education majors. The study seeks to determine whether students who participated in the simulation achieved differences in academic and attitudinal outcomes compared to students who participated in a traditional PBL exercise.

Using a non-experimental comparative design, 22 undergraduate health education majors enrolled in a health behavior course were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 workgroups. Each workgroup was then randomly assigned either the semester-long simulation project or the traditional PBL assignment. Three survey instruments were used to measure students' attitudes toward the course, their perceptions of the learning community, and their perceptions of their own cognitive learning. Content analysis on final essay exams and group reports was used to identify differences in academic outcomes and differences in students' level of conceptual understanding of health behavior theory.

Findings indicated that students participating in the simulation produced higher mean final exam scores compared to students participating in the traditional PBL. Students in the simulation group also outperformed students in the traditional group with respect to their understanding of health behavior theory. Students in the simulation group however, rated their level of cognitive learning lower than did students in the traditional group. No differences were found between the 2 groups with respect to perceptions of community connectedness, community learning, motivation or content interest.

Although the study found that students participating in the simulation produced stronger academic outcomes, the possible effects of the PBL methods on students' attitudes are unclear, partly due to problems that occurred with respect to group dynamics. The seeming contradiction between students' actual academic performance and their perceived learning also raises questions regarding the possible influence of PBL methods on students' perceptions of learning. The results of the study also raise concerns about how students can be best transitioned from more traditional lecture courses to courses that utilize pedagogy grounded in constructivist learning theory. Recommendations for future research include a number of suggestions for changes in methodology to further explore these issues, including qualitative analysis of group interaction.

Citation

Spinello, E. Simulating an infectious disease outbreak as a problem-based learning experience in a public health education curriculum. Ph.D. thesis, Pepperdine University. Retrieved January 25, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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