Theoretical perspectives and applications of group learning in PBL

Dario M. Torre*, Cees van der Vleuten, Diana Dolmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Web of Science)


An essential part of problem-based learning (PBL) is group learning. Thus, an in depth understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of group learning in PBL allows educators to bridge theory and practice more effectively thus providing ideas and tools to enhance PBL practices and research. The theory-driven applications examined in this article establish grounds for future research in PBL. The purpose of this article is to describe and examine two theoretical perspectives of group learning in PBL and their potential applications to improve educational practice. They include: (1) social interdependence theory and the meaning of positive interdependence, (2) socio cognitive theory of networked expertise and the concept of knowledge creation in innovative knowledge communities (IKC). Potential applications include the following: development of instructional material to foster positive interdependency using concept maps; formal and structured use of peer feedback throughout PBL courses to promote individual and group accountability; creation and sharing of new knowledge about different topics within and across IKC; and use of rotating students with hybrid abilities across PBL groups to foster distributed cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-195
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

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