Medical students’ views about having different types of problem-based learning tutors

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At Norwich Medical School, Year 3 or 4 medical students taking a year out of the 5-year undergraduate MBBS degree to do a master’s degree in clinical education worked as near-peer problem-based learning (PBL) tutors for students in Year 2. Peer-assisted learning has been shown to benefit both peer tutors and tutees; in this study, experiences of students with near-peer PBL tutors were compared to students with other types of PBL tutor.

Using existing student evaluation data, we compared student views about PBL tutor performance, PBL group functioning, and overall satisfaction with PBL learning experience according to whether their PBL tutor/s were (1) a single near-peer tutor (later-year MB BS student), (2) a single staff tutor, (3) multiple staff tutors, or (4) multiple newly qualified doctor tutors.

Results indicated that students’ evaluation of tutor performance was more positive for near-peer PBL tutors compared to both groups of staff tutors for most areas evaluated. Additionally, students’ evaluation of overall satisfaction with PBL was more positive for near-peer PBL tutors compared to multiple staff tutors. Tutor performance for multiple staff tutors was evaluated less positively compared to both single staff and multiple newly qualified doctor groups. But there were no statistically significant differences between the four groups regarding PBL group functioning.

Near-peer PBL tutors perform comparably or better to staff PBL tutors in salient measures of tutor performance and group functioning. We conclude that medical students find near-peer PBL tutors to be an acceptable addition to the PBL tutor workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number1
Early online date14 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Near-peer tutoring
  • Peer-assisted learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Undergraduate medical education

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