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Problem-based learning for professionalism and scientific integrity training of biomedical graduate students: process evaluation
  1. Nancy L Jones1,2,
  2. Ann M Peiffer3,
  3. Ann Lambros4,
  4. J Charles Eldridge5
  1. 1Division Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Bioethics, Trinity International University, Illinois, USA
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning, Social Science and Health Policy, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nancy L Jones, Planning and Evaluation Specialist, Contractor/LTS, Strategic Planning and Evaluation Branch (SPEB), Office of Strategic Planning and Financial Management (OSPFM), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, DHHS, Building 31, 7A46F, MSC 2520, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA; jonesna{at}


Objective We conducted a process evaluation to (a) assess the effectiveness of a new problem-based learning curriculum designed to teach professionalism and scientific integrity to biomedical graduate students and (b) modify the course to enhance its relevance and effectiveness. The content presented realistic cases and issues in the practice of science, to promote skill development and to acculturate students to professional norms of science.

Method We used 5-step Likert-scaled questions, open-ended questions, and interviews of students and facilitators to assess curricular effectiveness.

Results Both facilitators and students perceived course objectives were achieved. For example, respondents preferred active learning over lectures; both faculty and students perceived that the curriculum increased their understanding of norms, role obligations and responsibilities of professional scientists. They also reported an increased ability to identify ethical situations and felt that they had developed skills in moral reasoning and effective group work.

Conclusions These data helped to improve course implementation and instructional material. For example, to correct a negative perception that this was an ‘ethics’ course, we redesigned case debriefing activities to reinforce learning objectives and important skills. We refined cases to be more engaging and relevant for students, and gave facilitators more specific training and resources for each case. The problem-based learning small group strategy can stimulate an environment whereby participants are more aware of ethical implications of science, and increase their socialisation and open communication about professional behaviour.

  • Ethics
  • scientific integrity
  • responsible conduct of research
  • research ethics
  • bioethics
  • graduate education
  • professionalism
  • problem-based learning

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  • Funding This project was supported by NSF 0530023 (JCE, principal investigator), The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Wake Forest University Health Sciences. IRB approval was received for the process evaluation.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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