Does a PBL-based medical curriculum predispose training in specific career paths? A systematic review of the literature

Jordan Tsigarides, Laura Wingfield, Myutan Kulendran

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North American medical schools have used problem-based learning (PBL) structured medical education for more than 60 years. However, it has only recently been introduced in other medical schools outside of North America. Since its inception, there has been the debate on whether the PBL learning process predisposes students to select certain career paths.

To review available evidence to determine the predisposition of specific career paths when undertaking a PBL-based medical curriculum. The career path trajectory was determined as measured by official Matching Programs, self-reported questionnaires and surveys, and formally defined career development milestones.

A systematic literature review was performed. PubMed, Medline, Cochrane and ERIC databases were analysed in addition to reference lists for appropriate inclusion.

Eleven studies fitting the inclusion criteria were identified. The majority of studies showed that PBL did not predispose a student to a career in a specific speciality (n = 7 out of 11 studies, 64%). However, three studies reported a significantly increased number of PBL graduates working in primary care compared to those from a non-PBL curriculum.

PBL has been shown not to predispose medical students to a career in General Practice or any other speciality. Furthermore, a greater number of similar studies are required before a definitive conclusion can be made in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalBMC Research Notes
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2017


  • PBL
  • career
  • medical education

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