Background: In response to growing concerns about conventional modes of teaching and learning in medicine, some medical schools in Saudi Arabia have converted to hybrid problem-based learning (PBL) curricula while others continue to implement traditional discipline-based curricula. Understanding students' perceptions of traditional versus PBL learning environments can be helpful for evaluating program strengths and weaknesses and should promote curriculum development. Aim: The purpose of this study was therefore to evaluate the educational environments of two medical schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from perspectives of graduating medical students using the Dundee Ready Education Environment Measure (DREEM) inventory. Results: Compared to medical school implementing a hybrid PBL curriculum, the overall score on the inventory for the conventional school was statistically significantly less (p<0.001). In addition, students experiencing the hybrid-PBL curriculum held significantly higher perceptions in the learning, academic self-perception and atmosphere sub-domains of the inventory (p<0.001). Overall, our results align with previous studies pertaining to DREEM scores of other regional conventional and international PBL medical schools. Conclusion: We conclude that applying DREEM as a diagnostic tool provides important insights and understanding of learning environments where different educational strategies are adopted and which may be in need of development and change. Implications for curriculum development and improvement of learning environments in health professions education institutions are discussed.
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