Problem-Based Learning Pathway - LECOM Education System

Problem-Based Learning Pathway

In the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Pathway, studies are based around patient cases that provide the context for acquiring the knowledge and understanding of basic medical science. This method of learning promotes critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, while retention of knowledge is enhanced through its contextual nature. Since the PBL process emphasizes self-directed study with a team approach, it also strongly promotes independent learning and interpersonal skills.

How Does it Work?

Following an initial course in Anatomical Sciences (Anatomy, Embryology and Histology), during which time PBL is a minor component, students in the PBL Pathway study the basic medical sciences almost completely by PBL, which occupies about 70% of the total pre-clinical curriculum.

Over the two years of the PBL preclinical program, groups of eight or nine students, each with a faculty facilitator, meet for three tutorial sessions each week. They will study more than 70 patient cases during the two years.  These studies replace the major part of the traditional lecture program. The faculty members do not teach in the traditional sense, but facilitate the efforts of the student group in understanding the cases for themselves.

During the course of studying each case, learning issues — topics the students should study in greater depth in order to understand the case and the underlying medical science — are identified. Between meetings students work independently, or in small, informal groups, on these learning issues, which later form the basis for their examinations. Learning issues are selected in the form of chapters or sections of required texts for the pathway so that the material to be studied for each examination is unambiguously defined. Thus, in Problem-Based Learning, each basic medical science subject is studied, not in isolation, but integrated with other subjects in the context of the case.

Early Clinical Experience

PBL students learn proper patient history evaluation and physical examination techniques in class. From the first year of the program, PBL students gain clinical experience with standardized patients under the guidance of physician preceptors. They then apply this experience in clinical settings, such as physicians’ offices and hospitals, during preceptorships in year two, and later during rotations in years three and four.

Osteopathic Principles and Practice

LECOM students learn the basic philosophy, principles and practice of osteopathic medicine.  Hands-on diagnosis and treatment are a cornerstone of osteopathic whole-person health care.

Student Assessment

In the PBL component of the program, there are two examinations in the first semester and three examinations per semester thereafter. Cases are studied in groups of up to eight. Each group of cases is followed by an examination that tests knowledge and understanding of the learning issues relating to every case in the group. A small, additional component of the student assessment is derived from evaluation of their performance in tutorial sessions by the facilitator and by their fellow group members.