An understanding of different teaching styles will help you choose the right Medical Schools to apply to. This guide outlines the six main types of Medical School teaching styles that you could encounter.

What Are The Different Med School Teaching Styles?

There are four key different teaching styles you’ll find in Med Schools:

  • Traditional
  • Problem-based
  • Case-based
  • Enquiry-based

What Is Traditional Teaching?

Traditional teaching describes the way Traditional Courses are taught. With this teaching style, you learn the scientific theory first and then move to clinical settings after a few years. This is how you’ll be taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

The other teaching styles are found in Integrated Courses.

What Is Problem-Based Learning?

Problem-based learning is patient-centric and means you’ll be exposed to patients very early in your studies. It was pioneered by the University of Manchester and has now been adopted by most Medical Schools, but the level of focus on problem-based learning will vary with each University.

With problem-based learning, you’ll be given a medical case that you need to solve and learn from. There’s often a tutor to guide you, and you’ll mix group work with self-directed learning. This combination helps you to develop your communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills, while also boosting your personal responsibility and respect for others.

The basic structure of problem-based teaching sessions are:

  1. In small groups, you are presented with a ‘problem’ or case study.
  2. Your group will brainstorm possible hypotheses and solutions, and decide what you’ll need to learn in order to solve the problem at hand. These are called your learning objectives.
  3. The key difference between this and other teaching styles is that you come up with your own learning objectives based on the cues in the scenarios that you are presented with.
  4. You then go away and gather all of the information you need. This is usually in the form of private study and reading, but can also include lectures, teaching and clinical placements.
  5. Finally you present your findings to your group and facilitator to compare notes.

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What Is Case-Based Learning?

With case-based learning, the Medical School will use a case to pique your interest and then focus on the skills and knowledge that you’ll need to solve it. This teaching style usually means you’ll work in small groups over short periods – but it’s backed up with traditional methods like seminars, lectures, dissection and more.

Case-based learning is less common, and at the moment it’s only offered by Liverpool, Cardiff, and Glasgow.

What Is Enquiry-Based Learning?

With enquiry-based learning, you’ll look at questions, problems and scenarios instead of being given facts. It puts you in charge of your own learning, because this teaching style is more about how you learn, rather than a lecturer teaching you. The emphasis is on you identifying and researching issues and asking questions so you can develop your knowledge.

Enquiry-based learning is similar to problem-based learning, but with a stronger focus on empowering you to shape your learning. It’s only offered by Birmingham and Plymouth at the moment.

Which Medical School Teaching Style Is Best?

If you prefer a more traditional approach, you might be drawn to the traditional teaching of Oxford and Cambridge Medical Schools. Alternatively, if you want to carve your own path, the more innovative case-based teaching at Birmingham may suit you better.

But if you want regular teaching, problem-based learning is the one to choose. It’s taught by most Medical Schools, so it’s standard practice. You still need to think about how much problem-based learning you’re comfortable with – and make sure you choose Med Schools that have the right balance for your learning style.


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