PBL in the Undergraduate MD Program at McMaster University: Three Iterations in Three Decades
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When the undergraduate MD program of McMaster University admitted its first cohort of 20 students in 1969, it heralded a major change in medical school pedagogy that has influenced the education of medical students around the world. The three-year PBL curriculum, which emphasized small-group tutorials, self-directed learning, a minimal number of didactic presentations, and student evaluation that was based almost entirely on performance in the tutorial, represented a radical departure from traditional curricula. Since the inception of the original curriculum in 1969, there have been two major curriculum revisions, the most recent of which was in 2005. The original curriculum attempted to integrate both basic science and clinical science into the biomedical problems. The second iteration of the curriculum focused on priority health problems and centered on a list of common medical problems as the foundation for curriculum organization, on the basis that an understanding of the management of common conditions included areas of knowledge that would be essential for clinical competence. Under the third, current curriculum, the COMPASS (concept-oriented, multidisciplinary, problem-based, practice for transfer, simulations in clerkship, streaming) model was adopted. Under this concept-based system, emphasis is placed on underscoring the underlying concepts in the curriculum with a logical sequencing of both the concepts and the body systems. This article briefly reviews the history of the development of the undergraduate MD program at McMaster and the three curricula that have been developed during the past three decades.
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