Problem-based curricula provide a learning environment in which competence is fostered not primarily by teaching to impart knowledge, but through encouraging an inquisitive style of learning. Preliminary discussion in small groups, contextual learning, integration of knowledge and an emphasis on patient problems, have several cognitive effects on student learning. These effects are increased retention of knowledge, enhancement of integration of basic science concepts into clinical problems, the development of self-directed learning skills, and the enhancement of students' intrinsic interest in the subject matter. In this paper a number of studies will be reviewed that provide empirical evidence for these premises.
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