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Explains problem-based learning in medical education.

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"True learning is based on dicovery guided by mentoring rather than the transmition of knowledge."

John Dewy

"The principal idea behind PBL is that the starting point for learning should be a problem, a query, or a puzzle that the learner wishes to solve." 

D.J Boud

Problem-based learning, or PBL, is a pedagogical practice employed in many medical schools. While there are numerous variants of the technique, the approach includes the presentation of an applied problem to a small group of students who engage in discussion over several sessions. A facilitator, sometimes called a tutor, provides supportive guidance for the students. The discussions of the problem are structured to enable students to create conceptual models to explain the problem presented in the case. As the students discover the limits of their knowledge, they identify learning issues – essentially questions they cannot answer from their fund of knowledge. Between meetings of the group, learners research their learning issues and share results at the next meeting of the group.


what is problem-based learning?


PBL has become popular in medical schools that have undergone curriculum reforms incorporating multidisciplinary-system-based courses rather than discipline-specific ones. For example, students may learn biochemistry as it relates to organ systems of the human body while they are solving problems presented in clinical cases. This approach provides relevance, encourages self-directed learning, targets higher-order learning and engages students in ways that result in better long-term retention of content than traditional, lecture-based course

PBL in Medical School


Different roles of pbl members


The 7-Jumps Model in the Process of PBL


  2. Student centred—It fosters active learning, improved understanding, and retention and development of lifelong learning skills 
  3. Generic competencies—PBL allows students to develop generic skills and attitudes desirable in their future practice 
  4. Integration—PBL facilitates an integrated core curriculum 
  5. Motivation—PBL is fun for students and tutors, and the process requires all students to be engaged in the learning process 
  6. “Deep” learning—PBL fosters deep learning (students interact with learning materials, relate concepts to everyday activities, and improve their understanding) 
  7. Constructivist approach—Students activate prior knowledge and build on existing conceptual knowledge frameworks 


Assessment of PBL



PBL is an effective way of delivering medical education in a coherent, integrated programme and offers several advantages over traditional teaching methods. It is based on principles of adult learning theory, including motivating the students, encouraging them to set their own learning goals, and giving them a role in decisions that affect their own learning. 

Predictably, however, PBL does not offer a universal panacea for teaching and learning in medicine, and it has several well recognised disadvantages. Traditional knowledge based assessments of curriculum outcomes have shown little or no difference in students graduating from PBL or traditional curriculums. Importantly, though, students from PBL curriculums seem to have better knowledge retention. PBL also generates a more stimulating and challenging educational environment, and the beneficial effects from the generic attributes acquired through PBL should not be underestimated.