Problem-Based Learning Pathway

General Overview

The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) process is based on the fact that learning is facilitated by encountering knowledge in an applied context, identifying and acquiring information pro-actively, and working in teams.

In the PBL Pathway, the student class is divided into small groups who study patient cases, in place of a traditional lecture program, to provide the context for acquiring and understanding medical science. This method of learning promotes critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills, whilst 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 initial courses 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 60% 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, typically meet for three sessions each week to study more than 70 patient cases in total. The faculty members do not teach in the traditional sense, but facilitate the efforts of the student group in investigating the cases for themselves.

During the course of studying each case, learning issues — topics the students study in greater depth in order to understand the case and the underlying medical science — are identified by the group. 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 PBL, each basic medical science subject is studied, not in isolation, but integrated with other subjects in the context of clinical cases.