A snapshot of the status of problem-based learning in U. S. medical schools, 2003-04

Acad Med. 2005 Mar;80(3):300-1. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200503000-00021.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Problem-Based Learning / statistics & numerical data*
  • Schools, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States