Getting on with Each Other: PBL Group Dynamics and Function

  • Vicki Skinner
  • Annette Braunack-Mayer
  • Tracey Winning
Part of the Innovation and Change in Professional Education book series (ICPE, volume 8)


Problem-based learning (PBL) group dynamics are important because they underpin the collaborative learning and teamwork that prepares students for clinical practice. The constructivist and collaborative theoretical foundations of PBL provide criteria for effective group dynamics. However, research has demonstrated that PBL group dynamics are often inconsistent with the theoretical ideal of a professional learning team. This chapter reports on an ethnographic study of PBL group dynamics in two dental schools, in Australia and Ireland. The results show the PBL group was predominantly a social unit that subsequently became a work unit. Students operated with understandings of group dynamics that were inconsistent with the theoretical principles of PBL. The authors conclude that students need explicit support to develop professional working relationships and teams.


Group Dynamic Group Climate Team Spirit Irish Student Blue Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would sincerely like to thank the students and staff of the participating dental schools, whose willing participation made the project possible. We would also like to thank the following organisations for their funding support: The University of Adelaide (Faculty of Health Sciences Divisional Scholarship; Faculty of Health Sciences Postgraduate Travelling Fellowship; Research Abroad Scholarship), The Australian Federation of University Women, South Australia (Winifred E. Preedy Postgraduate Bursary) and The Australian Dental Research Foundation (Research grants). Thanks also to Assoc. Prof. Gerry Mullins, The University of Adelaide, and Assoc. Prof. Ray Peterson, The University of Queensland, for contributing to the supervision of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vicki Skinner
    • 1
  • Annette Braunack-Mayer
    • 2
  • Tracey Winning
    • 1
  1. 1.School of DentistryThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Population Health and Clinical PracticeThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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