Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 116-119
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 116
Problem-Based Learning & Task-Based Learning Curriculum
Revision Experience of a Turkish Medical Faculty
Berna Musal*
Department of Medical Education, Dokuz Eylul University, Faculty of Medicine, Izmir, Turkey
Received October 29th, 2013; revised November 29th, 2013; accepted December 7th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Berna Musal. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original
work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2013 are
reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Berna Musal. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded
by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
The aim of this paper is to introduce the basic principles of Dokuz Eylul University Faculty of Medicine’s
educational program and curriculum revision studies carried out within the last three years.
Keywords: Medical Education; Problem-Based Learning; Task-Based Learning; Curriculum Revision
The first part of the article, which aims to introduce the basic
principles of Dokuz Eylul University Faculty of Medicine’s
(DEUFM) educational program and the curriculum revision
studies carried out within the last three years, offers summa-
rized information on the educational program model, general
principles and the methods used. The second part includes in-
formation on the curriculum revision studies carried out with
the outcome-based approach since 2009 and the basic principles
and block structures of the new curriculum.
Basic Principles of the Educational Program
DEUFM applies the Problem Based Learning (PBL) program
which has been applied in Turkey for the first time since the
academic year of 1997-1998 in the first three years of the edu-
cational program; and Task Based Learning (TBL) as of the
academic year of 2000-2001 in the fourth and fifth years. The
sixth year is maintained as the internship period. DEUFM’s aim
is defined as training the physicians who are equipped with
basic professional knowledge and skills, capable of seeing the
human as a whole with their biological, psychological and so-
cial aspects, capable of communicating with their surroundings,
sensitive towards the health problems of the community and
capable of producing solutions, willing to learn during their
professional life and capable of improving themselves (Musal
et al., 2002). In configuring the educational program, six edu-
cational strategies (student-centered, problem based, integrated,
community based, involving electives and systematic) which
are representatives of innovative approaches of SPICES model
described by Harden were adopted in 1997 (Harden et al.,
PBL is the principal educational strategy in the first three
years of the undergraduate program. The curriculum covers
primary health problems of the community. The scenarios
which are used in the PBL sessions are built to involve not only
biological objectives but also societal and behavioral objectives.
Through the field studies, it is aimed to have students go out of
the borders of the university hospital; and gain sensitivity about
the health problems of the community and social factors influ-
encing health and health policies of the country. Students learn
new things, concepts, use their knowledge, notice where to use
them and better understand, and improve their analysis, synthe-
sis and problem solving skills in PBL sessions. Lectures, usu-
ally limited to one hour per day, provide some clues to increase
students’ motivation and curiosity and support the students
during the periods of independent learning. Basic clinical and
procedural skills are acquired in clinical skills laboratories and
basic science practices are implemented in laboratories. There
are special study modules in the first three years’ program,
elective programs in the clinical years so that students can gain
deep knowledge and skills in the subjects of their interest. Due
to the nature of the PBL program; knowledge and skills are
repeated and connected in the related blocks among years and
tasks in higher levels through the existing interdisciplinary
integration as well as a spiral configuration. Approximately
20% - 30% of the educational program is allocated to the inde-
pendent learning process (Musal et al., 2002).
The TBL method for the 4th and 5th years of the educational
program as the continuation of PBL in clinics was adopted in
the 2000-2001 academic year. TBL is an educational strategy
primarily defined by Harden which combines PBL and inte-
grated system with multidisciplinary learning and training per-
spective and offers the student rich learning opportunities of
different disciplines. The tasks which deal with a symptom or a
clinic problem of a patient, provide a focus for learning in TBL.
However, the aim of learning is not limited only to objectives
such as getting task oriented histories, making physical exami-
nation, referring diagnosis and treatment, but also includes
acquiring general professional skills. (Harden et al., 1996;
Harden et al., 2000; Race, 2000; Virjo et al., 2001). The objec-
*On behalf of all faculty members contributing to the educational manage-
ment and curriculum study groups of Dokuz Eylul University Faculty o
Medicine’s educational program.
tives of DEUFM 4th and 5th year program are defined as getting
task oriented histories, making physical examinations, referring
differential diagnosis and treatment, being able to make task
related procedures, gaining knowledge and skills in the social
dimension of the diseases and preventive medicine. The objec-
tives for general skills, on the other hand, include the ability to
integrate basic and clinical sciences with each other, critical
thinking, problem solving, gaining communication skills,
learning ethic and legal responsibilities. The tasks include the
basic clinical problems with which students encounter in their
profession. The selected tasks enable students to gain knowl-
edge and skills in relation to their clinical problems, and inte-
grate with basic medical sciences. Attention is paid to the selec-
tion of the clinical problems in relation to more than one de-
partment in order to transfer learning facilities and experiences
of different disciplines and to gain multidisciplinary approach.
Interdisciplinary practices, lectures and patient visits are organ-
ized in each task’s schedule.
There are total 38 tasks in each eight-week “Internal Medical
Sciences”, “Gastrointestinal system-Masses”, “Paediatrics” and
“Surgical Medical Sciences” blocks within 4th year program.
There are total 36 tasks in each eight-week “Emergency Medi-
cine”, “Nervous System-Mental Health and Mental Disorders”,
“Skin and Joints-Locomotor system”, “Eye-Ear Nose and
Throat” and “Obstetrics and Gynecology” blocks in 5th year
program. At the beginning of 4th year program, students attend
rational drug use, evidence-based medicine and infection con-
trol courses. Elective internship period is determined as two
weeks in the 4th year, one month in the 5th year (Ozkan et al.,
2004; Ozkan et al., 2006).
Internship program is predominantly applied as the use, im-
provement of knowledge and skills learned in the previous
years and preparation process for becoming a physician. The
educational objectives of 6th year program were reviewed again
in line with the national core curriculum and constantly updated
DEUFM curriculum objectives. In the process of reviewing the
objectives, some changes were made in the structure of two-
month Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Paediat-
rics, Emergency Medicine-General Surgery, Public Health and
one-month Psychiatry and Elective blocks (Ergor et al., 2009).
Starting with the academic year of 2009-2010, one-week dura-
tion “Cardiology”, “Chest Diseases”, “Neurology” and” Ear
Nose and Throat” blocks were added within the 6th year pro-
gram. It was intended to configure those blocks to include the
primary health problems to be encountered by the physician in
the primary health care units and predominantly maintain it
through policlinic studies. Internship program is constantly
evaluated and revised through the regular monthly meetings of
the intern representatives and faculty members who are in
charge of internship and program evaluation studies.
Educational Program Revision Studies
In DEUFM, all components of the educational program,
verbal and written feedback and the qualitative, quantitative
studies which are implemented within the scope of the program
evaluation project are constantly evaluated and necessary
changes are made (Musal et al., 2008). After a 12 years of ex-
perience in PBL curriculum, in 2009 we decided to make an
extensive revision in the program for thorough review and up-
date of the program objectives and to reanalyze what we ex-
pected from the graduates. It was intended to have no changes
in the basic principles of the educational program, have it stu-
dent-centered, focus on active learning methods such as PBL
and TBL, and community oriented, allow community based
practices, have skill training based on competency, offer the
students opportunities to gain deep knowledge and skills in
their area of interests (Musal et al., 2010).
Competencies expected from the students at graduation
phase are defined as follows:
Understand basic and clinical sciences and assess the scien-
tific foundations of medical knowledge in critical terms,
Address patients and diseases with their biopsychosocial
dimensions and understand the effects of ecosystems on
human health,
Apply basic principles for the protection of individual and
community health,
Have knowledge and skills to diagnose, treat and monitor
Have the skills of self-learning and self-assessment,
Have effective communication with patients and their rela-
tives, colleagues and other healthcare workers and take the
Effective utilization of information technologies in physi-
cian’s practices,
Perform physician’s practices in compliance with profes-
sional values and ethic principles,
Assess the effects of health systems, policies and practices
on individual and community health.
Blocks, stages and themes which will exist in the general
structure of the educational program were determined as a re-
sult of the presentations and discussions made in the Under-
graduate Level Education Board. The educational program was
planned to be dealt with in four stages. Stage 1 which includes
normal structure and functioning covers the whole 1st year and
the first half of 2nd year; Stage 2 which includes pathological
processes covers the second half of the 2nd year and the whole
3rd year; Stage 3 covers clinical clerkship and Stage 4 covers
internship period. The list of the blocks which is available in
the six-year educational program is given in Appendix 1.
In the curriculum revision study, it was decided to use the
outcome-based approach (Harden et al., 1999; Harden, 2007)
which stipulates the clear definition of what is expected from
the graduate and planning the educational program by consid-
ering the competencies to be demonstrated by the student at the
end of the education. Block and theme study groups were cre-
ated taking the representations of the relevant field specialists
into account.
The names of the block study groups are presented below:
Introduction to medical sciences 1
Introduction to medical sciences 2
Reproduction, urogenital, endocrine
Information management-research 1 and 2
Gastrointestinal system, nutrition, metabolism
Respiration, circulation, blood
Neural sciences
Locomotor system and skin
Blood, infection, immunity
Life Cycle
Introduction to clinical sciences
The names of the theme study groups are presented below:
Community Health and Preventive Medicine,
Human Behaviors and Their Foundations,
Open Access 117
Ethics and Law,
Professional Skills and Values.
In line with the study plan and calendar which were prepared
by the Deanship and the Department of Medical Education
(DME), the groups created the lists of diseases, conditions/pro-
blems, symptoms to be frequently encountered/important/life
threatening in relation to the block/theme. The lists which were
created by the study groups in which 193 faculty members from
41 Departments took office were later sent to all Departments
and the review of the list and the determination of the compe-
tence levels (information, diagnosis, diagnosis-treatment man-
agement, emergency attempt, preventive medicine) expected
from the graduate in relation to the defined diseases, condi-
tions/problems, symptoms were requested. The opinions of the
primary health care physicians were taken in the same time
period. The study groups considered the opinions coming from
the Departments and primary health care physicians, and de-
termined the six-year objectives of the blocks and themes and
then objective levels in compliance with the lists and compe-
tence levels. Information and counseling support was provided
by DME at all phases. The determined objectives were com-
pared to the national core curriculum, previous curriculum ob-
jectives and international references. Following the completion
of the distribution of the objectives defined by all block study
groups to different stages, “Community Health and Preventive
Medicine”, “Human Behaviors and their Foundations”, “Ethics
and Law”, “Professional Skills and Values” study groups im-
plemented the distribution of the objects which were simulta-
neously determined with block study groups to the blocks at
different phases. Following the three-month intensive effort of
the study groups, the block boards which consisted of the fac-
ulty members commissioned by the Deanship from the De-
partments associated with the objectives of the blocks started to
prepare block programs and educational materials based on the
defined objectives.
The new educational program includes system blocks which
repeat in different stages as well as Introduction 1 block for the
purpose of preparation for normal structure and functioning,
Introduction 2 blocks for the purpose of preparation to patho-
logical processes. In Information Management Research I and
II blocks, basic principles of the scientific principles, research
types, research ethics, biostatistics concepts and tests, informa-
tion management in healthcare, article and report preparation
objectives are handled and the information and skills obtained
in these blocks are applied through special study modules. In
the Multisystem block which exists at the end of the first three
years, it is aimed to use and synthesize the key biological in-
formation obtained in the first three years through themes such
as shock, sepsis, metastatic cancer, autoimmune disease and
polytrauma. In the Life Cycle block, on the other hand, it is
aimed to address the health problems that may be encountered
in all periods of human life from birth to death predominantly
with their social, behavioral, ethic and forensic medicine di-
mensions for the reinforcement and development of the knowl-
edge and skills obtained by the students in the first three years
in health risks, health protection and improvement. The three-
week Introduction to Clinical Sciences block which exists at the
beginning of the 4th year program, on the other hand, was in-
tended to include diagnostic medicine objectives in addition to
rational drug use, infection control, evidence-based medicine
items which were available in the previous years. The existing
block structures in the 4th and the 5th year program were up-
dated in compliance with the objectives defined in the new
curriculum study.
Integration has been described as an important educational
strategy in medical education (Harden, 2000). A great effort
had been made to achieve integration throughout the new cur-
riculum at all levels in DEUSM. The vertical and horizontal
integration levels of the new curriculum were reviewed and
necessary arrangements were made through the meetings which
were held once a week for one year in the academic year of
2010-2011 by the Curriculum Integration Board which was
created by taking the representations of the study groups and
Departments into account. The block programs are revised in
line with the block board reports and student feedbacks in the
periodical meetings which are still made by the Curriculum
The new educational program is applied in all years’ pro-
gram commencing from the 1st year program in phases as of the
academic year of 2009-2010. All components of new educa-
tional program are evaluated and revised within the concept of
program evaluation studies which include qualitative, quantita-
tive studies, and block reports.
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Appendix. Blocks That Exist in the
Educational Program
1st Year STAGE 1
Introduction to medical sciences I-8 weeks
Reproduction, urogenital, endocrine-8 weeks
Information management-research-1 week
Gastrointestinal system, metabolism, nutrition-8 weeks
Respiration, circulation, blood-9 weeks
2nd Year
Neural sciences-8 weeks
Information management- research-1 week
Locomotor system, dermatology-8 weeks
Introduction to medical sciences-6 weeks STAGE 2
Blood, infection, immunology-6 weeks
Gastrointestinal system, metabolism, nutrition-6 weeks
3th Year
Reproduction, urogenital, endocrine-6 weeks
Neural sciences-6 weeks
Locomotor system, dermatology -6 weeks
Respiration Circulation-6 weeks
Multisystem -6 weeks
Life cycle-6 weeks
4th Year STAGE 3
Introduction to clinic-3 weeks
Paediatrics-8 weeks
Internal medicine-8 weeks
Gastrointestinal system-masses-8 weeks
Respiration Circulation-8 weeks
Elective-2 weeks
5th Year
Emergency medicine- 8 weeks
Obstetrics and gynecology -8 weeks
Nervous system-Mental health-8 weeks
Locomotor system- dermatology-8 weeks
Ear nose and throat, Eye-4 weeks
Elective-4 weeks
6th Year STAGE 4
Internal medicine-6 weeks
Chest Diseases-1 week
Cardiology-1 week
Obstetrics and gynecology-8 weeks
Public health-8 weeks
Emergency medicine-6 weeks
Surgery-2 weeks
Psychiatry-4 weeks
Neurology-1 week
Ear nose and throat-1 week
Elective-2 weeks