Problem based learning

Challenging you to think differently and delve deeper

Problem based learning (PBL) is at the heart of our education philosophy.

Experienced practising clinicians with a passion for education lead our PBL sessions. You will benefit from their day-to-day experience in hospitals and GP practices, learning professional values and behaviours.

PBL is one of the many strengths of our curriculum, offering a lively, interactive and enjoyable way to build your knowledge. In this context you can form strong relationships, learn how to communicate effectively in a group and work as part of a team to tackle problems, developing skills which will be invaluable throughout your medical career.


Keeping up to date with rapidly advancing scientific knowledge is a challenge for today's medical professionals at all stages of their career. Clinical reasoning, critical thinking and ongoing self-directed learning skills are crucial to your success as a doctor, and all of which our problem based learning helps you to develop.

Dr Marie Cohen Director of Problem Based Learning, GP and Macmillan GP Facilitator


How problem based learning works

PBL takes place throughout the first two years of your course. You stay in the same small group of typically ten students for the entire year, with the same tutor for two half-day sessions each week.

Each week, all the PBL groups in your year will be working on the same cases. With guidance from your tutor, you'll discuss an example patient case study - for example, starting work on the respiratory and circulatory systems, you'll meet Harry, a heavy smoker with a persistent, hacking cough, and Hilary, a student whose voice has become hoarse.

Your tutor supports and guides the group and, as a practising clinician, helps you to learn in a clinically relevant context, using the language of medicine to discuss cases from the very beginning of your undergraduate course.

What happens during problem based learning

  • The aim of your first PBL session of the week is to find out what you need to know to understand the problem fully. You'll work as a group to identify all the issues or learning outcomes that each problem raises.
  • For most of the rest of the week, you'll explore these issues through plenary sessions, resource sessions, clinical skills teaching, clinical placement and your own individual study – all closely related to the topic you're working on.
  • Later in the week in your second PBL session, your group will meet again with your tutor to share and discuss what each of you has discovered, consolidating the key information.


Hull York Medical School students stand out in their placements at my GP practice. Their excellent communication skills, attention to detail and the ability to think around a problem, really differentiates them from other students.

Dr Chris Stanley GP with the Haxby Group