It is definitely difficult to decide whether PBL is the way that you’d like to learn for the next five years as it’s so different to the classroom-based teaching we’ve all experienced from the day we started school. It’s also hard to fully appreciate the realities of PBL unless you’ve actually tried it.
Now that I’ve finished my first year at a medical school which uses a lot of PBL, I’ve written a list of three things that I think will help you decide whether PBL is indeed the right choice for you…
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Unlike a lecture-based course, PBL means that you will have to do the large majority of your learning in your own time. If you have a look at my typical weekly timetable, you’ll notice that I have very few scheduled sessions and my timetable is quite empty. All those empty spaces you’re seeing are for independent study.
At the beginning of the year we were told that we should aim to do around 25-hours of self-directed study every week! That’s great if you’re a highly motivated person because you have a huge chunk of time available to you so you can revise using the methods and techniques that suit you best.
Nobody will be telling you what to do and how to do it, you’ve got the freedom to decide and plan the times you’d like to work.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to adore group work, because PBL isn’t so much “group work” as it’s quite often presented to be.
This is because each person in the PBL group is still responsible for sourcing and learning all the information themselves.
People are sometimes put off by the thought that PBL will be a similar experience to doing group-based projects in school, but in reality, it’s not like that at all. Here are some more common PBL misconceptions that you need to leave behind!
If you’re the type of person who will go to a friend if you get stuck on something, or often find yourself explaining concepts to your peers…PBL will suit you!
In the PBL group sessions everyone in the group will share their findings, flag up any concerns and you’ll explain everything to each other, it’s a very relaxed and friendly environment and much less like a “project”.
See which course type is used at each med school using our Medical School Comparison Tool>>
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In PBL, you won’t be learning isolated scientific concepts or learning the pure science in an extreme level of depth. Each week you’ll be presented with a clinical case are you’ll learn everything surrounding the case: the relevant bioscience, anatomy, pharmacology.
PBL courses therefore do not require as deep an understanding of the underlying science as some traditional courses will require.
So, if you’re the type of person that likes being able to see the bigger picture and want to be able to form some of those basic clinical connections from the start; PBL will be ideal for you!
Read one med student’s top tips for starting a PBL course>>
Masumah is a 1st year medical student at the University of Manchester. She writes a blog documenting her experience through medical school and also giving tips to aspiring medics: lifeofamedic.com
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