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A comparison of pyramids versus brainstorming in a problem based learning environment

Wendy Davis
The University of Western Australia
Objective: To compare pyramids and brainstorming in a problem based learning (PBL) environment.

Design and methods: First year medical students at the University of Western Australia (UWA) participate in one two-hour PBL tutorial every week as part of the Foundations of Clinical Practice unit. There are approximately twelve students in each tutorial group. Generally, two tutorials cover one problem. During the first tutorial a carefully constructed problem based on Public Health, Behavioural Science, General Practice, and/or Aboriginal Health, is brainstormed by the group as a whole. Not all students are comfortable participating in such an environment and one of the tasks of the tutor is to facilitate the process by encouraging all students to contribute equally. In the first part of one of these PBLs the pyramid method was used to determine whether it might be more effective and acceptable to the students compared with brainstorming. The eleven students present sat in groups of three or four. They were instructed about the pyramid method and reassured that they would not be disadvantaged by participating in the trial. After each trigger was introduced the students worked alone to tackle the problem before teaming up with their neighbour to share ideas. Each group then came to a consensus and pooled ideas in turn for the nominated scribe to write on the whiteboard. At the end of the PBL the students completed an anonymous, voluntary questionnaire comparing pyramids with brainstorming.

Results: Detailed results will be provided at the session. In summary, when considering increased personal involvement in the discussion, the students favoured the pyramid method over brainstorming. All students thought that pyramids allowed the group as a whole to define the objectives better, without taking longer, compared with brainstorming.

Discussion: In this session, the use of brainstorming and pyramids in PBLs will be discussed.

Author: Wendy Davis, PhD student/Teaching intern, Public Health/Medicine, The University of Western Australia

Presentation format: Roundtable

Please cite as: Davis, W. (2002). A comparison of pyramids versus brainstorming in a problem based learning environment. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/davisw-abs.html

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Created 2 Dec 2001. Last revision: 1 Feb 2002. HTML: Roger Atkinson [ rjatkinson@bigpond.com ]