Purpose: Although the use of problem-based learning (PBL) is widespread in U.S. medical schools, its true prevalence is unknown. This study examined the prevalence of PBL in preclinical curricula.
Method: In 2003, a Web-based questionnaire was sent to education deans or directors of medical education at the 123 Liaison Committee on Medical Education-accredited medical schools in the United States. The respondents indicated whether or not they were using PBL and what percentage of faculty-student contact hours in the preclinical years used PBL.
Result: All 123 schools responded. Of them, 70% used PBL in the preclinical years. Of schools using PBL, 45% used it for less than 10% of their formal teaching, while 6% used it for more than half of their formal teaching. Of the 30% of schools not using PBL, 22% had used it in the past, and 2% had plans to incorporate it in the future.
Conclusions: Use of PBL is widespread in the preclinical curricula of U.S. medical schools. That use is limited, however, since fewer than 6% of programs use it for more than 50% of their instruction.