Case method teaching: an effective approach to integrate the basic and clinical sciences in the preclinical medical curriculum

Med Teach. 2009 Sep;31(9):834-41. doi: 10.1080/01421590902922904.


Background: Recent efforts to identify the essential skills and competencies required for medical practice have resulted in an expansion of the educational outcomes for which medical schools are accountable. Teachers in the preclinical years, formerly focused on the transmission of biomedical principles and factual information, are now charged with presenting discipline-specific concepts with an emphasis on clinical relevance while advancing active learning, critical thinking, communication skills, and other professional competencies. Problem-based learning has been widely introduced to support these educational goals but other, less resource-intensive, discussion methodologies have not been extensively explored.

Aim: To examine the feasibility of case-method teaching (CMT) during the preclinical curricula to integrate basic science concepts in the management of clinical problems.

Methods: CMT sessions were conducted with students during the first- and second-year of hybrid curricula at two US medical schools.

Results: First- and second-year medical classes of 40-95 students prepared for and actively engaged in single session case discussions and were able to productively apply basic science principles in clinical problem-solving.

Conclusion: CMT represents a feasible and resource-conservative pedagogical format to promote critical thinking and to integrate basic science principles during the preclinical curriculum.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards
  • Educational Measurement
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Schools, Medical / standards*
  • Teaching / methods*
  • United States