A variable structure, less resource intensive modification of problem-based learning for pharmacology instruction to health science students

W. Lubawy, B. Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A less resource intensive but more structured modification of problem-based learning was developed to teach pharmacology to pharmacy students in classes of 90 students. The method utilizes an active learning tool developed from cognitive science and cognitive learning theory. This case-based approach was developed to address the need to teach problem-solving skills to relatively large classes while conserving faculty and other resources. The method involves students working through cases in small groups according to a prescribed format. Groups are chosen at random to present the case to the whole class followed by open but structured discussion. Students bring recommended texts to class and groups are asked to answer questions relating to the material in the case, or to determine how the way their approach to the case would differ if patient parameters or medications in the case were altered utilizing the required texts. Each class begins with a short 1-min quiz on the fact-based material to be discussed that day and ends with a wrap-up of critical issues or principles learned. Continual probing of "what" and "why" characterizes each class meeting. Examinations are predominately open book and follow the same format as the in class cases. Learning outcomes for each general topic are provided at the beginning of the semester. Although the method does require students to learn pharmacology "facts", it places the facts within the context of application to practice. Rather than memorizing lists of side effects, for example, the format requires utilizing the side effects list and information about them to appropriately counsel the patient on how to deal with each and/or to suggest modifications in the therapy. Since implementing this method in an endocrine pharmacology course, student performance on problem-solving examinations has improved. Additionally, student evaluation of the method is extremely positive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalNaunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archives of Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Active learning
  • Case-based education
  • Information application
  • Pharmacology instruction
  • Problem-based learning
  • Problem-solving skills


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