Problem-Based Learning


Key Points:

  • Student centered
  • Simulates realistic problems
  • Promotes critical thinking skills
  • Fosters teamwork
  • Increases knowledge retention
  • Encourages self learning
  • Criticisms:
    • Labor and time intensive
    • Group members can take advantage of others' work
    • Information may not be comprehensive



  • Integrate problem-based learning into your curriculum, as appropriate


Recommended Resources: 

Brief Review


Problem Based Learning. 5kumarkak. 3 minute overview of classroom process.

Problem Based Learning Explained. The Medic Portal. 2 minutes.

Duke School of Medicine embraces Team-Based Learning. dukemedalumni. 2 minutes.

Problem Based Learning. UW - Department of Family Medicine. 11 minutes.


Ricanati S. Problem-Based Learning Faculty Training: IQ Team Faculty Training Manual. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2014. This publication contains a detailed guide that shows how to incorporate PBL into the pre-clinical years of medical school.

Lalwani K. How to Create and Moderate a Great Problem Based Learning Discussion (PBLD). MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2013.

Wood DF. Problem based learning. BMJ. 2003 Feb 8;326(7384):328-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 12574050

Onyon C. Problem-based learning: a review of the educational and psychological theory. Clin Teach. 2012 Feb;9(1):22-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 22225888.


Li L, Brieger K, Markovitz A, Flygt L, Connors B, Anderson J, Weir S, Santen S, Wozniak L. Facilitating Facilitation: How to Promote Active Learning. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2014. This resource is a 90-120 minute session designed to introduce learners to the concept of active learning and effective facilitation techniques and skills.


In-Depth Review


Scenario-based Learning in Medicine. Professor Terry Poulton, Associate Dean for e-Learning at St George's, University of London. 29 minutes.

Problem-based Learning. Jay Portnoy, MD. 1 hr 19 min.


Problem-Based Learning: An Approach to Medical Education by Howard S. Barrows MD and Robyn M. Tamblyn BScN. 2003.

The Problem-Based Learning Workbook: Medicine and Surgery edited by Tim French and Terry Wardle. 2007. $36.10


Essentials of Problem-Based Learning: Facilitator Development, Problem Construction, Curriculum Design, and Student Assessment. The Academy for Scholarship in Education, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Annual CME course Springfield, Illinois. Fee required $