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Preparation Tips: PBL Sessions

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is technique medical schools use in order to allow students a more self-directed learning path. The idea is that PBL makes you more capable and confident in hospital or patient situations in future. PBL will be relatively new to you, so you may be wondering what to expect, or how you can prepare for the sessions – here, we speak to current student Kate on her top tips when beginning PBL!


Listen to others

This can apply to all areas of medical school, not just PBL. It is important to take other people’s opinions into account as they may have picked up on something you completely missed, or they may simply see things in a different way, bringing a valuable new perspective.

Listening to peers is crucial in getting the most out of your PBL session as it works as a group exercise as it would in the hospital. Working as a team is the best way to arrive at a conclusion. Not only that but each person contributes what they know, meaning most people learn something they didn’t know before from the session.

Pay attention to what you DON’T know

The nature of PBL means that you have to draw on your reservoir of knowledge in order to solve a problem. In this way, it’s easy to discover the limitations of your knowledge, and paying attention to these can be critical in highlighting what you need to revise and cover in your own time. An example of this would be a particular topic you may have been less confident on, so perhaps need to cover more extensively, or it could be a few things you completely couldn’t answer. Not knowing is absolutely fine – you can use this to guide your learning further.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

PBL is often done in groups so the idea is that pooling knowledge will allow you to learn from your peers. In this way, if there is something you are not too sure about, don’t be hesitant to ask your peers or a tutor. Finding out yourself is always a useful technique as it encourages initiative and independence, however sometimes there may be something you just can’t get your head around and all it may take is just someone explaining it in a slightly different way.

Make sure you fully engage

PBL requires a lot of motivation and initiative, so you have to employ a positive attitude towards your learning. This means actively learning throughout the year and before your sessions, which may be every day, or once or twice a week. The more material you look at the easier it will be (especially in CBL) to identify similar situations you’ve seen before. From here, it’s then easier to learn variations of these similar situations and it’s this knowledge and experience that will help you in a clinical setting.

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