The biomedical engineering department uses the term problem-driven learning (PDL) to describe a suite of courses that have been informed by the problem-based learning (PBL) approach. Originally designed to prepare medical students for the clinic, the PBL curriculum was centered on having small teams of students diagnose the ailments of simulated patients, with the intended outcome that they would develop a deep understanding of the human body and the cognitive practices of diagnosis.
Similar to the medical community, we want our BME students to practice a particular reasoning and problem solving strategy referred to as model-based reasoning and, likewise, to anchor their knowledge in rich, complex cases that they have worked on and “solved”. PBL is an educational approach we feel is the most viable way to grow integrative thinkers and problem solvers capable of bridging the biosciences, engineering and medicine. Carefully designed, complex, ill-structured problems taken from the real world create the context and the motivation for students to practice the melding of bioscience knowledge with engineering analysis and design.
Initially, two courses, Problems in Biomedical Engineering I & II, grounded in the PBL approach, formed the foundation of the department’s pledge to implement curricular innovation on a more comprehensive level. Since then, the department has continued to encourage faculty to enact curricular change and the faculty have responded with “Problem-driven Learning (PDL)” innovations that are based on PBL and its two derivatives: Project-based Learning (PjBL) and Product-based Learning (PrBL)