October 2022

October 2022 Blog: Introducing Problem Based Learning to Junior Medical Students - An Enriching Experience

Last week I had the opportunity to introduce the pillars and process of Problem Based Learning (PBL) to our first year Medical students in the course of “Medical Education: Life Long Learning”. This course is newly designed for our students and is aimed at equipping them with some of the important life long learning skills e.g. a variety of learning and assessment strategies, communication skills, and professionalism and ethics. 

We, at Gulf Medical University, use the framework of 7 jumps in PBLs (Servant-Miklos, 2019) for higher level students, so we decided to simulate the same for 1st year students in their Life Long Learning session. Each small group was guided by the facilitator who explained the seven jumps of PBL. Each group was given a medical scenario. To begin with, we emphasized on the group process. Every group chose their “Leader”, who was assigned the responsibilities of keeping the discussion on track, involving every member of the group and also for smooth conduction of the seven steps. We also appointed one student from each group as “Scribe” who was responsible for keeping a written record of the process, discussions, etc. Additionally the groups may have opted to have a “Time manager” and a “Reader” as well. 

The seven interconnected jumps or steps of PBL discussed were as follows:

1. Clarify Terms and Concepts: The first step guides students into the topic, by discussing unknown words or concepts. It is ensured that all students understand the text as it stands. This first step provides a common starting point and leads the group into the topic. 

2. Problem Statement: Students look at the problem from multiple perspectives and form statements. This step is very much like formulating research questions. 

3. Brainstorming: Students analyse the problem statements from different aspects. They activate prior knowledge and gather information about what they need to know in order to solve the problem. Concept maps and mind maps play important role here. 

4. Set learning objectives: Students state learning objectives and divide the objectives among themselves.

5. Study Privately: Students find answers to the learning objectives assigned in previous step.

6. Share results: Students gather again in groups and share their answers with each other. This steps usually takes on the form of peer teaching. 

7. Evaluate: Students solve and present the problem in the light of all the knowledge they had before and gained from this process. 

During this session, we realised that students need training in using mind maps and concept maps as a learning strategy. Therefore, we have decided to conduct the next session on Concept Maps and Mind Maps. Our Life Long Learning course is a revolution in itself. It’s unique because it has the tendency to affect student’s learning and attitudes. 

REFERENCE: Servant-Miklos, V. F. (2019). A Revolution in its Own Right: How Maastricht University Reinvented Problem-Based Learning. Health Professions Education, 5(4), 283-293. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hpe.2018.12.005

Dr. Farah Azhar
MBBS, MHPE (University of Dundee)
Program Coordinator MHPE
Gulf Medical University, UAE