We aimed to study the effects of active-learning curricula on graduation rates of students and on the length of time needed to graduate.
Graduation rates for 10 generations of students enrolling in the eight Dutch medical schools between 1989 and 1998 were analysed. In addition, time needed to graduate was recorded. Three of the eight schools had curricula emphasising active learning, small-group instruction and limited numbers of lectures; the other five had conventional curricula to varying degrees.
Overall, the active-learning curricula graduated on average 8% more students per year, and these students graduated on average 5 months earlier than their colleagues from conventional curricula.
Four hypotheses potentially explaining the effect of active learning on graduation rate and study duration were considered: (i) active-learning curricula promote the social and academic integration of students; (ii) active-learning curricula attract brighter students; (iii) active-learning curricula retain more poor students, and (iv) the active engagement of students with their study required by active-learning curricula induces better academic performance and, hence, lower dropout rates. The first three hypotheses had to be rejected. It was concluded that the better-learning hypothesis provides the most parsimonious account for the data.
- *problem-based learning
- multicenter study [publication type]
- student dropouts
- statistics-&-numerical data