Problem-based learning (PBL) is a pedagogy that has been introduced in many medical schools around the world. It takes students beyond just learning facts: PBL tutorials are designed to develop the students’ clinical reasoning abilities, to enhance their teamwork skills, and (for MBBS students)  to introduce relevant aspects of the Themes in an integrated fashion.  Furthermore, the self-directed nature of PBL coaches students to take responsibility for their learning.

In PBL tutorials each week, small groups of students are presented a clinical problem.  Their task is to discuss this problem and produce tentative explanations for the phenomena it introduces, referring to underlying processes, principles or mechanisms.  Depending on the situation, students may also be required to formulate questions, order additional laboratory information or propose a management plan.

During initial analysis, dilemmas will arise and questions will come up that can be used as learning goals for subsequent individual self-directed learning.  The tutor’s task is to stimulate the discussion, to provide students with more information when necessary, to evaluate progress being made and to monitor the extent to which each group member contributes to the group’s objectives.

The process of thinking through the weekly problem provides the core of the week’s activities.  Students are helped to develop skills in locating and acquiring information after defining the learning topics in the PBL tutorials. Summaries of topics are provided, together with reading lists, keywords and indications of other resources (including museums and computer-based resources). Lectures provide a broader context for detailed learning and provide background information relevant to the week’s problem.