Problem-based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a form of small group teaching in which students learn through their own curiosity.

At Lancaster, the core curriculum is delivered through PBL in Years 1-4. Students also engage in other learning activities and these are designed to complement and support self-directed learning in PBL.

PBL develops effective self-directed study skills that are essential for a future doctor: medicine constantly evolves and doctors must be capable of keeping their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers. PBL also builds team-working skills as students must work effectively in their small groups to achieve their learning objectives.

In PBL, students explore realistic patient-based scenarios that:

  • integrate basic biomedical science with the psycho-social aspects of medicine
  • prompt students to consider the public health implications of the topic
  • introduce the professional and ethical complexities of clinical practice

Students work in small groups (of 7 or 8) with an experienced tutor, to identify their learning needs in relation to the scenario. Students then independently research these topics, drawing on resource lists, and developing their study skills by seeking information for themselves and critically appraising its worth. In feedback meetings, discussion of the material learned through self-study reinforces learning and reassures students about the appropriateness of their self-directed learning. The tutors steer students through the PBL process by questioning and stimulating group debate to probe the understanding and the scope of student learning.

In years 3 and 4, in some instances you will use real clinical cases as a stimulus for your learning, rather than written scenarios, but using the same PBL process. You will present information from your own patient histories and use this information to develop your learning objectives.