Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 189–194

Applying problem-based learning to the teaching of anatomy: the example of Harvard Medical School



The introduction of problem-based learning techniques into the teaching of anatomy has been subject to great controversies. This paper debates the rationale behind this concept using the example of the curriculum of Harvard Medical School in which problem-based learning techniques have been used during the past 20 years. The anatomy curriculum is covered during the eight first weeks of the medical studies, and is an original combination of discussions of clinical cases in small groups, and work in gross anatomy, histology and radiology laboratories. The lectures are reduced to the minimum and emphasize general concepts. In this setting, the learning of anatomy is mostly led by students who have prepared for the different laboratory sessions and tutorials. The implementation of problem-based learning to the teaching of anatomy requires a close follow-up of each student with regular feedbacks on his work. Tutorials must be considered as a cornerstone between lectures and work in laboratories. Traditional aspects of the teaching of anatomy, such as work in dissection laboratories, are given an important role as they are aimed to clear-up misunderstood points. Further studies are required to compare at the long term the level of medical students who learned anatomy in a problem based versus traditional learning setting.


Problem-based learning Anatomy Medical education 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service d’Urologie et département d’AnatomieC.H.U. Henri MONDORCréteilFrance
  2. 2.Department of Cell BiologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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