Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Problem-Based Learning or PBL in Cebu Medical Schools: What is it?

Some medical schools in the country such as here in Cebu City, Philippines use the PBL curriculum. This is unlike what is used in premedical school days and also unlike in these med schools' previous years when lessons are based more on lectures delivered by experts. Therefore applicants to these med schools might need to familiarize themselves with what PBL is since this question is what bugs them when choosing a local medical school to apply to.

So what is PBL?

PBL is a system that simulatenously develops a student's problem solving strategies and knowledge base by turning students into active learners, actively solving a problem provided to them which closely resembles or simulates the real world situation.

PBL is student-centered as opposed to learning from lectures which are teacher-centered.

This is in concordance with the principles of adult learning (since medical students are adults) which believes that adults are self-directed with an accumulation of life experiences and knowledge, as well as goal and relevancy-oriented (they learn better when they see that what they are learning is applicable to their work).

PBL in local medical schools uses a case as a trigger for small group discussion (SGD) and learning. The teacher acts only as facilitator, a guide on the side.

The SGDs follow a series of steps known as the Maastricht "7 Jumps". These are:
  1. Clarifying unknown terms and concepts in the problem case given via handout for example.
  2. Defining the problem(s). List the phenomena or events to be explained.
  3. Analyzing the problem(s) via brainstorming where as many different tentative explanations for the phenomena are thought of and presented to the group. This makes use of prior knowledge and common sense. Biochemistry, Physiology or Pathogenesis knowledge are very useful.
  4. Continuation of analyzing the problem(s) by discussing then criticizing the explanations proposed. The group arrange explanations into a list of tentative solutions. These explanations are organized. 
  5. Formulating learning issues by group consensus for self-directed learning.
  6. Filling in gaps in ones knowledge through self-study, independent study or private study.
  7. Coming back to the group and sharing the findings during the self-study or independent study session with the group while trying to integrate the knowledge acquired into a comprehensive explanation for the phenomena or events.  Test against the original problem.
Basically, that's the process of PBL in local medical schools like Cebu Institute of Medicine (CIM).

Since PBL was started in CIM, not one product of the PBL curriculum has failed so far. All PBL graduates passed.

Cebu Doctors' University College of Medicine also uses a PBL curriculum.


  1. This article simply ROCKS ! That was a great read for me. keep it up with all the good work..



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