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Med Princ Pract. 2009;18(1):1-9. doi: 10.1159/000163038. Epub 2008 Dec 4.

Problem-based learning and medical education forty years on. A review of its effects on knowledge and clinical performance.

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McMaster University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ont., Canada.


Problem-based learning (PBL) has swept the world of medical education since its introduction 40 years ago, leaving a trail of unanswered or partially answered questions about its benefits. The literature is replete with systematic reviews and meta-analyses, all of which have identified some common themes; however, heterogeneity in the definition of a 'problem-based learning curriculum' and its delivery, coupled with different outcome measurements, has produced divergent opinions. Proponents and detractors continue to dispute the merits of the cognitive foundation of a PBL approach, but, despite this, there is evidence that graduates of PBL curricula demonstrate equivalent or superior professional competencies compared with graduates of more traditional curricula.

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