Problem-based learning is a methodology designed to help students develop the reasoning process used in clinical practice through problem-solving actual patient problems in the same manner as they occur in practice. The purpose of this activity is to develop students’ clinical reasoning skills using a case-based learning exercise. Through participation in an online discussion forum, students identify learning issues in a self-directed manner which facilitates learning for the entire group. Through this discussion, the student will demonstrate the ability to:

synthesize information from multiple sources, analyze and evaluate clinical data, and make sound judgment based on evidence, all while applying their knowledge and reasoning skills to solve complex patient problems.

The use of problem-based learning in medical education has gained popularity over the years due to its ability to create a more engaging and interactive learning experience. This methodology allows for the integration of theoretical knowledge with real-life scenarios, enabling students to apply their knowledge in a practical manner. By presenting students with complex patient cases, problem-based learning encourages active participation and critical thinking, as students are challenged to analyze and solve these cases using the knowledge they’ve acquired.

One of the key features of problem-based learning is the emphasis on self-directed learning. Instead of relying solely on lectures and teacher-led instruction, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning and actively seek out information that is relevant to the case at hand. This not only enhances their research and information retrieval skills but also promotes lifelong learning, as students are able to transfer these skills to new scenarios and situations in their future medical careers.

In a problem-based learning exercise, students are typically divided into small groups, each group assigned a specific patient case. These cases are carefully selected to represent a range of health problems that students are likely to encounter in their clinical practice. Students are then given the task of identifying the learning issues that arise from the case, which could include specific medical conditions, diagnostic challenges, treatment options, ethical dilemmas, or communication issues.

Once the learning issues have been identified, students engage in a discussion forum, either in person or online, where they share their individual perspectives and insights. This collaborative discussion allows students to learn from their peers, as they are exposed to different viewpoints and approaches to solving the case. It also encourages active participation and critical thinking, as students are challenged to defend their ideas and arguments in a supportive and respectful environment.

Throughout the discussion, students are expected to use their clinical reasoning skills to analyze and evaluate the information presented in the case. This includes interpreting clinical data, considering differential diagnoses, weighing the pros and cons of various treatment options, and assessing the potential impact of ethical considerations on patient care. The ability to make sound judgments based on evidence is a key outcome of problem-based learning, as it prepares students to navigate the complexities and uncertainties of clinical practice.

In addition to developing clinical reasoning skills, problem-based learning also promotes the integration of knowledge across different disciplines. By presenting students with cases that require a multidisciplinary approach, such as the collaboration between medical doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, students are encouraged to consider the perspectives and contributions of other healthcare professionals. This fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and helps students appreciate the importance of teamwork in providing comprehensive patient care.

Overall, problem-based learning is a valuable tool in medical education that helps students develop their clinical reasoning skills and prepare for the challenges of clinical practice. By engaging in self-directed learning, collaborative discussions, and critical analysis of real-life patient cases, students are able to synthesize and apply their knowledge in a practical and meaningful way. This prepares them for the complex and ever-evolving healthcare environment, where they will be required to make sound judgments and provide evidence-based care to their patients.