Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching style just like lectures or seminars that some universities use to teach. Read on to know if
Problem Based Learning (PBL) will suit your style of learning at medical school.
PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING (PBL): WHAT IS IT?
PBL is a far more interactive way of teaching and learning. It is student-led with a staff member who is a facilitator for the session. This teacher is not there to teach but to make sure that all points are answered and any issues raised are addressed. A PBL session typically runs like this:
A student is nominated as “The Chair”. They will mediate the session and make sure discussion stays on track.
Students in PBL.
Another student is nominated as “The Scribe”. They will take notes for the whole group and then distribute to the group at the end of the PBL session
There will be a few patient cases to discuss and after reading through the whole case, the group will use the cases to facilitate discussion on topics relevant e.g. pathology, physiology, law, etc.
From the discussion, a list of potential diagnoses (called differential diagnoses) will be written up
From all of the above information, either the students will create their own set of learning outcomes for the week or the medical school will provide a list. This is then distributed so that each person has a separate learning outcome.
You will go away for a week and research and put together a document on your learning outcome and then present it back to the group at the next PBL session so that everyone ends up with the same level of knowledge.
GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE…
There was a lot of information there, so here is a small scenario to help explain how a Problem Based Learning (PBL) session might run:
“A 65-year old Indian male has presented to A&E complaining of crushing chest pain”.
The tutor will ask the group to discuss the age, race, type of pain and come up with a differential.
Answer? The top of my differential for this patient would be a heart attack (MI).
Create a Learning Outcome: “My learning outcome for the week is to describe the pathophysiology of myocardial infarction (heart attacks)”.
WHY IS PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING (PBL) GOOD?
Problem Based Learning (PBL) gets students used to presenting a patient’s history to a group of people. It also gets them used to presenting their own work to people. These are vital skills as a doctor and one that they will be able to practice straight from day 1 with PBL.
Junior Doctors are able to put their skills into place straight away with PBL.
It also encourages independent learning as they will be expected to use good quality references and read scientific literature and journal articles. It, therefore, prepares them for any research that you might do at medical school.
IS THERE A BAD SIDE?
Sometimes they don’t know when to stop learning with Problem Based Learning (PBL).
It can often be difficult for students to know when they know something in enough detail and when they need to carry on. It can also be frustrating if someone in their group doesn’t pull their weight as this will result in them getting poor quality information. However you, as the facilitator, should step in and prevent this.
Read the discussion on PBL versus traditional learning methods to find out if this style of teaching is right for your teaching style. It doesn’t just have to be practiced in medical school but it can be used for a wide variety of purposes!
Problem Based Learning (PBL) has pros and cons but can supplement other teaching methods well.
They can help break up the week and prevent possible boredom. It also provides students with key skills that they can take forward in their careers.
Ultimately, you know best how you learn, so if you like the sound of how it works, apply to PBL medical schools!