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Problem based learning group

Problem based learning

Possessing strong communication and problem-solving skills is essential to providing exceptional, patient-centred care. This is why we place problem based learning at the heart of our curriculum.


What is problem based learning?

The main emphasis of problem based learning (PBL) is on small group working, centred – as the name implies – around a ‘problem’ or scenario. These scenarios are hypothetical patient cases.

A typical week

At the start of each timetabled week, your PBL group will be presented with a hypothetical patient scenario. Investigating this problem will require you to explore a range of disciplines – such as applied life sciences, health in society, professionalism and ethics – which reflects the complexity of treating real-life patients. You'll work as a group to identify all the issues and to find out what you need to know to understand the problem fully.

Throughout the week, your anatomy sessions, clinical placements, clinical and communication skills sessions, lectures, workshops, and your own self-directed learning will provide opportunities to deepen your understanding of the issues raised by the PBL case.

Later in the week, your group will meet in a second PBL session, where you will share and discuss what you have discovered and learnt throughout the week, clarify your understanding, and consolidate the key information under the guidance of your clinician tutor.

This integrated approach, centred on PBL, and grounded in a robust scientific understanding, strong clinical knowledge and highly developed clinical reasoning skills, allows you to develop life-long skills that will be crucial to your success as a doctor.

Students in a problem based learning session
Students in a problem based learning session
Students in a problem based learning session

Who is in your PBL group?

You will join a small group of around 10-12 students supervised by a facilitator, who is an experienced clinician. You will stay with this same group throughout your first year of study, before joining a new PBL group in your second year.

Our PBL groups are facilitated by experienced clinicians with a passion for education, who will facilitate and guide your learning while also providing pastoral care and support. You will benefit from their experience in hospitals and GP surgeries, as they provide real-life clinical context for the situations you discuss as a group, while also helping you to learn professional values and behaviours.

Your PBL facilitator also delivers your clinical and communication skills sessions, as well as acting as your main pastoral contact, ensuring you settle into life as a medical student while progressing through the programme.

You will work very closely with your PBL group and clinical tutor, tackling different learning points, discussing issues, sharing knowledge and developing an understanding of key concepts together. Your group will spend a lot of time together, which is a great way to develop team-working skills and make new friends.

Students in a problem based learning session
Students in a problem based learning session
Student in a PBL session


As a graduate entry student, PBL is an exciting new way of learning for me, allowing me to consolidate my knowledge within a group setting as well as develop my critical thinking skills. Having only been taught through lectures previously, I have thoroughly enjoyed being in an interactive learning environment with my peers. PBL mirrors the multidisciplinary team that we will work within as doctors, and PBL allows us to familiarise ourselves with this concept from the very start of our medical journey.
Year 5

Arabella Lloyd