Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Respiratory Therapy

First Advisor

Lynda T. Goodfellow, Ed.D., RRT, FAARC

Second Advisor

Robert Harwood, MS, RRT

Third Advisor

Lawrence O. Bryant, PhD, MPH, RRT



BACKGROUND: Although Problem-based learning (PBL) approach is a common teaching technique in medical education, its use in the field of respiratory therapy is somewhat controversial. With so many programs adopting PBL strategies, it is important to examine whether there are differences between PBL and traditional teaching approaches in regards to learning outcomes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate if there are any significant differences between PBL and lecture-based program students in their cognitive abilities in mechanical ventilation.

METHODS: Two universities with BS programs in respiratory therapy were chosen—one uses PBL (15 participants) and on uses lecture-based method (24 participants). All 39 participants were given10 multiple-choice questions related to mechanical ventilation derived from the NBRC RRT written exam forms (C & D) as a pre and a post test.

RESULTS: The dependent t-test showed a significant difference between the pre and post test of the lecture-based and the PBL groups, resulting in a p value of 0.006 and 0.025 respectively. The independent t-test showed a significant difference in the pre-test favoring the lecture-based group (p = 0.039). However, the independent t-test showed no significant difference in the post-test (p=0.085)

CONCLUSIONS: PBL is increasing in popularity despite the fact that studies of its efficacy have been thus far inconclusive. This study has shown PBL to be effective, but not significantly more effective than traditional lecture-based methods in regards to objective test scores.