Andrew Provan is to be congratulated for his critique of problem-based learning (PBL). I hope he will not be ignored by those who were behind this innovation when it was introduced a decade or more ago when I was coming to the end of my practice and teaching career. It seemed to me then, and I then said so and felt like an old fogey, that asking students to teach themselves by what amounts to a trial-and-error technique would be folly. It is rather like going to sea without a map, to paraphrase Osler’s famous statement about textbooks.
An experienced teacher has the capacity to show students what is important, as well as what is misleading. I know of no better learning opportunity than guided exposure to real experience.
By the way, a didactic and entirely lecture-based curriculum was abandoned in favor of small clinic groups long before the PBL system was introduced at UBC.
—Paul Bratty, MD
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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