Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science


PA Education


Laura Witte, PhD, PA-C


Purpose: Reducing medical errors is an ultimate goal of medical education. Developing critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills in our students can significantly reduce diagnostic or cognitive errors that result in medical errors. There is no single standard method of teaching and developing clinical reasoning skills in the medical curriculum. The purpose of this paper is to examine the current literature on the use of problem-based learning (PBL) in medical education and its effectiveness in teaching clinical reasoning.

Method: A PubMed literature search was conducted with search terms “problem-based learning” and “teaching clinical reasoning.” The search yielded 22 relevant articles which serve as the basis for this review.

Results: Small group learning platforms such PBL are more effective in improving academic performance than traditional lectures for teaching clinical reasoning skills. Clinical reasoning skills improve clinician performance in problem solving and reduce cognitive errors. Problem-based learning is an effective pedagogical strategy that can be utilized in the preclinical and clinical phases of the curriculum to develop clinical reasoning.

Conclusion: To effectively reduce medical errors precipitated by diagnostic or cognitive errors, medical education programs are obligated to teach and develop student clinical reasoning skills. Clinical reasoning skills are enhanced when integrated with clinical experience, thus, health and medical education programs should consider employing PBL in all phases of training to develop these skills. Problem-based learning is an effective platform upon which to build curricular elements to teach and develop clinical reasoning skills.


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