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Problem-based Learning

In this Section

Clarkson University's Department of Physician Assistant Studies presents a portion of its curriculum in a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) format. This learning environment is used to stimulate development of the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to be a competent physician assistant. This gives the learner early experience in the practice of the profession that makes your time on campus meaningful and fulfilling. Problem-Based Learning will be used as part of the Clinical Medicine series.  Four hours each week will be dedicated to cases examined using PBL.

PBL Sessions
Facilitators present cases to small groups of students. Students identify what they know, and what they do not know about the case. Following this review, students create learning issues that guide their study and discussions. Students disperse and seek out information needed to fulfill their learning issues. At the next session, students share and discuss their information. At the end of a session, students identify new learning issues and ones that have been refined by their previous study and discussion. This process is repeated until the case is completed. Faculty members ensure that students include all necessary learning issues and information, and ensure that accurate information is shared.

Benefits of Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
PBL students in a clinical environment exhibit the following professional characteristics and abilities:

  • PBL students know about and are comfortable with the dual academic/clinical nature of the physician assistant learning environment.
  • PBL students can understand and explain learning objectives and learning issues better than non-PBL students, in part because the students are active (as opposed to passive) in the clinical environment.
  • PBL students demonstrate practical insight, knowing where to find information, listening closely, and appreciating principles and learning processes.
  • PBL students are inquisitive, they tend to ask more questions, which are higher-level and contextual, and thus show preparation. The PBL students can easily frame questions in cost/benefit terms.
  • PBL students develop life-long learning skills that allow them to seek answers independently, rather than being guided at every step by the faculty and clinical instructors.
  • Expecting ongoing feedback, PBL students are comfortable with it. Furthermore, they react to and follow up on the feedback in a professional manner.
  • PBL students see the patient in a broader context and consider the economic and cultural issues that coincide with intervention and care
  • PBL allows students to focus on a patient-centered approach to medicine.
  • PBL also allows students to develop a patient care plan that emphasizes an inter-disciplinary approach.