Department of Pharmacy Practice
The University of Mississippi

Leaders in Interactive Learning – Problem-Based Learning

In 1996, the Department of Pharmacy Practice adopted an active learning style called “problem-based learning,” or “PBL,” as the sole teaching strategy for the third year curriculum. PBL is an instructional learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem. Based on the McMaster Philosophy, three key features are identified.

  1. Self-directed learning
  2. Problem-based learning
  3. Small-group tutorial learning

In PBL, each student focuses on a problem that he or she identifies and uses all of his or her previous information and expertise, as well as an ability to think rationally, to solve the problem. This approach encourages active intellectual processes at a higher cognitive level while enhancing the retention and transfer of information which is modifiable to meet individual student needs.

Key concepts in problem-based learning include:

  • The student is an active learner, rather than a passive participant.
  • The teacher functions as a facilitator, rather than as an instructor.
  • The environment is one of collaborative, group-centered learning, rather than competitive, individual-centered learning.
  • The problem is ill-structured so that it is not immediately evident.
  • The student has a pre-existing knowledge base derived from life experiences or formal education.

The Department of Pharmacy Practice PBL curriculum provides students the opportunity to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a controlled environment. The objectives of the PBL course series are to help students acquire and retain a sound knowledge base, to learn to use indexing and pharmacy literature resources, to develop and utilize critical thinking and communication skills in clinical problem-solving and to appreciate the need for lifelong learning.