Answer to "How do we decide what additional learning resources should be provided to support students in PBL?"

Acknowledging that what was once ‘hybrid’ PBL is now ‘standard’ PBL, learning is generally supplemented in two ways:

  • Textbooks, podcasts, journal articles, etc. that can generally be accessed online to assist learners to meet their learning issues. This helps to define the expected breadth and depth which is often confusing with young learners new to PBL. A favourite question is: How much do I need to know? The logical answer might be “As much as is required to return and fully explain what is happening to the patient”.

  • Face-to-face sessions, e.g. workshops, practicals, etc. which would depend on the identified competencies and concepts with which learners need to engage.

 

A key consideration in terms of the provision of additional resources is that they should support learning rather than replace the self-study in which learners should engage. This is particularly so for the face-to-face sessions. The ‘what’ (content and/or concept) and ‘how’ (activity) should be informed by evidence and underpinned by theoretical considerations. Thus, as experts in our various content areas and experienced educators designing the curriculum, it is up to us to identify threshold or key concepts that learners need to grasp to tackle the content of the case, block or curriculum unit or are areas with which learners have historically had trouble. As experts in our content areas, we are best placed to identify these. Examples include homeostasis (i.e. understand the principle and one can apply it to most physiological processes) and acid-base balance which is difficult as it involves all body systems as well as understanding physical and chemical processes.  The bottom line is that content can be acquired from a range of resources and can happen without a face-to-face session. The application and the ‘connecting of the dots’ may, however, require considerable guidance through active engagement in groups and with a content expert.

 

NOTE: History-taking, procedural and physical examination skills are competencies required of medical professionals and should thus not considered as ‘additional’ learning resources.  They need to be practiced face-to-face with simulated or real patients.

 

References

BARROWS, H.S. (1996). Problem-based learning in medicine and beyond: A brief overview. (New Dir Teach Learn. 68:3-12).

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