Remarking on the differences in terminology across disciplines, Karen Cummings (Southern Connecticut State University) observed that these differences pose a challenge for researchers. She asked Gijbels how he distinguished between knowledge of concepts and application of knowledge in his study. Gijbels agreed and explained that for his review of the literature he examined actual assessment questions to determine what type of knowledge they were assessing. Lundeberg added that it was a challenge for the faculty members in her study to develop assessments that measure higher order thinking, because it is easier for them to write questions that focus on definitions and conceptual knowledge.
Martha Narro (University of Arizona) asked Gijbels to clarify some of the findings that he discussed in his presentation. He explained that, across studies that assessed student learning of concepts, there was no significant difference between students in problem-based and traditional settings. Across studies that assessed student learning of principles and application of conceptual knowledge, however, students in problem-based environments performed better. He also pointed out that the findings varied depending on the context (specifically, whether the students were in their first or last year of medical school) and the curriculum, and that he was reporting on the overall trends in the data.
Responding to another question, Lundeberg and Foster discussed the issue of relevance when constructing scenarios, problems, and cases. They agreed that there is very little research on what it means to be relevant. Lundeberg related several examples of cases that faculty members designed to be relevant but that did not resonate with students. In her experience, allowing students to design their own cases is a powerful way to make the cases relevant. Foster added that many college students are still developing their identities, which makes the notion of relevance more challenging. An audience member, referring to a paper by Mayberry (1998) about pedagogies that encourage students to develop their own sense of science, cautioned faculty members to be careful about coming across as knowing more than students about what is relevant.
Following another question, the speakers engaged in a discussion about the importance of longitudinal research to understand the longer term impact of these pedagogical strategies. Lundeberg mentioned some examples of longitudinal studies of innovative instructional strategies that show mixed results. Foster added that it is difficult to measure long-term knowledge or to trace it back to its origins. As an example, he said that although students might not demonstrate understanding of a concept after a certain