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Problem-Based Learning Curriculum a Success for Medical School

Knowledge in the medical field changes so rapidly that by the time students graduate, many are already behind in the latest medical knowledge. //In an effort to address this issue, the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine adjusted its curriculum 13 years ago, and a recent study has shown that the adjustment was a success.

"At that time there were national voices calling for accountability and looking for skills beyond the medical licensing exam," said Kimberly Hoffman, assistant dean for education evaluation and improvement for the medical school.

MU's medical school was among the first to turn to an educational strategy called Problem-Based Learning (PBL). The pioneering curriculum cuts lecture time by 60 percent, decreases rote memorization, teaches the science of medicine in the context of clinical cases, and, according to a recent study at MU, achieves outstanding academic results.

The power of PBL was examined in a recent MU study and published in the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The study has shown that not only did MU student scores on the medical licensing exam dramatically increase after PBL was introduced, but evaluations of graduates' performance at the end of their first year of residency also improved.

"Problem-Based Learning does a great job at teaching things like collaboration and communication, in addition to the traditional skills," said Michael Hosokawa, associate dean for curriculum. "With our traditional curriculum, students took classes that had a format similar to their undergraduate courses. These lecture-based classes were discipline specific and usually tied to a certain department. It was as if students were empty vessels being filled."

PBL-based curriculum is very different depending on the school. Eighty percent of the 125 U.S. medical schools report that they use PBL, but only about 25 of those schools use the same type of PBL as MU. The
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