The influence of tutoring competencies on problems, group functioning and student achievement in problem-based learning

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Prominent factors in problem-based learning (PBL) are the problems to be solved, tutorial group functioning and tutors' competencies. These factors mutually affect one another and largely determine whether a powerful learning environment will be created. It is a tutor's task to stimulate active, self-directed, contextual and collaborative learning and display interpersonal behaviour that is conducive to students' learning. We investigated the effects of tutors' competencies on students' learning and on other variables, such as group functioning and student achievement.


We investigated whether tutors who stimulate active, self-directed, contextual and collaborative learning make better use of problems and meaningful contexts in PBL and also enhance group functioning. We also investigated whether the quality of problems has a positive impact on group functioning and whether group functioning advanced student achievements.


Questionnaires were used to collect data from students at the end of 11 modules in Years 1 and 2 of a PBL undergraduate medical curriculum. We used structural equation modelling to test the fit of a theoretical model representing the factors of interest and their relationships.


Stimulation of active and constructive learning, self-directed learning and collaborative learning by tutors enhanced the quality of the problems and group functioning. The quality of the problems promoted group functioning, which was found to have a positive effect on student achievement.


Tutors' competencies had a positive effect on the learning of students. This suggests that it would be worthwhile including these competencies in staff development.

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