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Problem Based Learning A short history. Ginie Servant PhD Candidate - Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands) Managing Director - Promethea Education (Singapore). Historical overview. 1960’s. 1970’s. 1980’s. 1990’s.

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problem based learning a short history

Problem Based LearningA short history

Ginie Servant

PhD Candidate - Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Managing Director - Promethea Education (Singapore)

historical overview
Historical overview





1969: McMaster University School of Medicine opens its first small-group, problem-based curriculum.

1972: Roskilde University

1974: Aalborg University

1974: University of Limburg Faculty of Medicine

1975: Newcastle University Faculty of Medicine

1979: UniversitiSains Malaysia Faculty of Medicine

1979: University New Mexico Faculty of Medicine

1979: “The Network”

1985: Harvard School of Medicine adopts New Pathway Curriculum

1986: Linköping University Faculty of Health Sciences

1990: Tokyo Women’s Medical University

1992: GadjahMada University

1997: The University of Hong Kong

mcmaster university
McMaster University

Image source:

McMaster University

Class of 1972

the founding fathers
The Founding Fathers

J.E. Evans

W.B. Spaulding

J.A. Anderson

W.J. Walsh

J.F. Mustard

Image source:


‘So what was originally a negative focus turned around. One said: “Well, if you really want to do that you can't schedule lectures, you've got to start with problems and those problems really should be clinically related […] , and you want to teach them how to assimilate knowledge around those problems on a continuing basis”’.

John Evans, 1979

Interview conducted by J. McAuley on 28/09/79 at McMaster University, FHS/McM 17-79 - Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, McMaster University.

the h s barrows legacy
The H.S. Barrows legacy

Image source:

Wikimedia Commons

roskilde aalborg university centres
Roskilde & Aalborg University Centres

Image source: Kjaersdam & Enemark, 1994


“It has become a parody – But the University is not a Marxist Folke High School” – 11 March 1974

“Study Board agrees with Erling Olsen’s critique of Roskilde” - 9 Feb 1974

“They shout ‘pigs’ at the professors” – 8 March 1974


“These were the three didactic or organizational principles: student autonomy, right to define their own study orientation and content; problem-orientation, which was defining the curriculum not by disciplines, sub-disciplines, but by issues, problems that should be pursued; interdisciplinarity, which was getting rid of disciplinary boundaries. And the project work was, so to say, the practical implementation of these principles”.

Henning Selling Olesen, 2013

Interview conducted by V. Servant on 04/01/13 at Roskilde University in the context of doctoral research.

maastricht university
Maastricht University

Image source:

H. Schmidt

Circa 1974


“There was a lot of talk about “problem-solving”. And these students should become good “problem-solvers”. […] What is solving a medical problem? For the doctors, it’s clear, it’s finding the right diagnosis and then the right treatment. But these students are not doctors. They are students. They have to understand a problem rather than solve it. They have to understand what happens in the human body that produces the signs and symptoms that these patients have”.

Henk Schmidt, 2013

Interview conducted by V. Servant on 26/04/13 at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the context of doctoral research.