Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

BMC Medical Education


BioMed Central Ltd


School of Nursing and Midwifery




Edelbring, S., Alehagen, S., Mörelius, E., Johansson, A., & Rytterström, P. (2020). Should the PBL tutor be present? A cross-sectional study of group effectiveness in synchronous and asynchronous settings. BMC Medical Education, 20, Article 103.


Background: The tutorial group and its dynamics are a cornerstone of problem-based learning (PBL). The tutor's support varies according to the setting, and it is pertinent to explore group effectiveness in relation to different settings, for example online or campus-based. The PBL groups' effectiveness can partly be assessed in terms of cognitive and motivational aspects, using a self-report tool to measure PBL group effectiveness, the Tutorial Group Effectiveness Instrument (TGEI). This study's aim was to explore tutor participation in variations of online and campus-based tutorial groups in relation to group effectiveness. A secondary aim was to validate a tool for assessing tutorial group effectiveness in a Swedish context. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted with advanced-level nursing students studying to become specialised nurses or midwives at a Swedish university. The TGEI was used to measure motivational and cognitive aspects in addition to overall group effectiveness. The instrument's items were translated into Swedish and refined with an expert group and students. The responses were calculated descriptively and compared between groups using the Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests. A psychometric evaluation was performed using the Mokken scale analysis. The subscale scores were compared between three different tutor settings: the tutor present face-to-face in the room, the tutor present online and the consultant tutor not present in the room and giving support asynchronously. Results: All the invited students (n = 221) participated in the study. There were no differences in motivational or cognitive aspects between students with or without prior PBL experience, nor between men and women. Higher scores were identified on cognitive aspects (22.6, 24.6 and 21.3; p < 0.001), motivational aspects (26.3, 27 and 24.5; p = 002) and group effectiveness (4.1, 4.3, 3.8, p = 0.02) for the two synchronously tutored groups compared to the asynchronously tutored group. The TGEI subscales showed adequate homogeneity. Conclusions: The tutor's presence is productive for PBL group effectiveness. However, the tutor need not be in the actual room but can provide support in online settings as long as the tutoring is synchronous. © 2020 The Author(s).



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.