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Interface between problem-based learning and a learner-centered paradigm

12 May 2011


Background: Problem-based learning (PBL) has made a major shift in support of student learning for many medical school curricula around the world. Since curricular development of PBL in the early 1970s and its growth in the 1980s and 1990s, there have been growing numbers of publications providing positive and negative data in regard to the curricular effectiveness of PBL. The purpose of this study was to explore supportive data for the four core objectives of PBL and to identify an interface between the objectives of PBL and a learner-centered paradigm.

Methods: The four core PBL objectives, ie, structuring of knowledge and clinical context, clinical reasoning, self-directed learning, and intrinsic motivation, were used to search MEDLINE, the Education Resources Information Center, the Educator’s Reference Complete, and PsycINFO from January 1969 to January 2011. The literature search was facilitated and narrowed if the published study included the following terms: “problem-based learning”, “medical education”,
“traditional curriculum”, and one of the above four PBL objectives.

Results: Through a comprehensive search analysis, one can find supportive data for the effectiveness of a PBL curriculum in achieving the four core objectives of PBL. A further analysis of these four objectives suggests that there is an interface between PBL objectives and criteria from a learner-centered paradigm. In addition, this review indicates that promotion of teamwork among students is another interface that exists between PBL and a learner-centered paradigm.

Conclusion: The desire of medical schools to enhance student learning and a need to provide an environment where students construct knowledge rather than receive knowledge have encouraged many medical schools to move into a learner-centered paradigm. Implementation of a PBL curriculum can be used as a prevailing starting point to develop not only a learnercentered paradigm, but also to facilitate a smooth curricular transition from a teacher centered
paradigm to a learner-centered paradigm.


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