Should problem based learning be universally adopted? No
Problem based learning is becoming widespread. But how does it size up against traditional methods of teaching?
- By: Mairead Boohan, Pascal McKeown
- Published: 05 July 2012
- DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e4406
- Cite this as: BMJ 2012;20:e4406
Since McMaster University introduced problem based learning (PBL) in the 1960s it has been instituted in various guises—pure PBL, case based learning, and hybrid PBL—in medical schools throughout the world.1
Problem based learning is an instructional method that uses patient based scenarios as a framework for students to learn the basic sciences and clinical medicine. One of the arguments used to defend PBL is the opportunity it affords students to acquire a range of cognitive and non-cognitive skills, including problem solving, critical reasoning, and self directed learning.2 Other benefits include producing graduates who are aware of their own aptitude and are self assured in using their skills.
A range of studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of PBL.2 Although some of these highlight enhanced performance for graduates from PBL in some attributes—for example, teamwork—consistent evidence for its superiority over other curriculum delivery methods remains inconclusive. Furthermore, it has