Guidelines for the Problem Based Learning (PBL) Task Presentation

Problem-based learning has been used extensively in many areas of higher education, most particularly in the training of medical students since the 1970s. Problem-based learning is characterised by the following:

  1. It uses stimulus material (in this instance clinical cases or referrals for psychological input) to engage students in considering the problem in the same context as ‘real life’
  2. Information is not given on how to tackle the problem
  3. Information is given to help clarify the problem and how it might be dealt with
  4. Students work co-operatively in small groups with access to a tutor who facilitates the process
  5. Learning that has occurred is summarised and integrated into the students’ existing knowledge and skills
  6. Work is carried out intensively into one problem over a period of time

Within the academic and research curricula PBL is used to complement and facilitate learning from the more traditional teaching seminars.  Early in year 1 there will be an introductory exercise (practice PBL) followed by four more substantive exercise in year one and two. It is intended that the PBL exercises will increase the opportunities to integrate theory and research knowledge derived from more formal teaching, with practice from the beginning of the Programme.

The clinical problems will cover a range of learning areas taken from the work of practising clinical psychologists and more general learning objectives, which relate to the core competencies for practice. They may be based around clinical casework and leadership / organisational issues.  Trainees will work on the PBL exercises in their small PBL groups, which, as far as possible, will be geographically based so as to enable you to continue to work on the exercise during study days and/or in the locality.

You will be encouraged to nominate a chair and scribe for these meetings who will record actions to be taken by group members. You will then work independently, contributing to the group’s goals of finding solutions to the problems raised within the clinical case. You will be expected to draw on a wide range of resources, including your own past experience, the library, the internet, electronic databases and information from placement, in the completion of these tasks. The group will be expected to meet outside of tutorials to bring together, debate and to analyse the contributions before organising these into the presentation.

For many this will be a new and quite different way of working. In recognition of this fact the academic tutorials provide space to help facilitate PBL group learning. Academic tutors will take a non-expert role and are present to help facilitate the group with process issues not to provide commentary or direct input in terms of the content of exercises. The PBL presentations are assignments which will be formatively assessed. Formative assessment will be used to develop individual and group presentation skills and communication effectiveness. The academic tutor supporting each PBL group will be responsible for monitoring this feedback and developing action plans to ensure trainees make progress in this area of competence.

The first practice PBL exercise will be undertaken over a relatively short time period during the assessment block in the first term. Each PBL group will present to the whole cohort and the presentation will be formatively assessed by members of the academic team and self-assessed by the PBL group.

The subsequent PBL exercises will be carried out over some weeks, and the presentation will be again to the whole cohort with formative assessment. All these presentations will be videoed so that the group will have a record of their presentation for use in formative discussions.

Each group presentation will last for 30 minutes allowing between 5 and 10 minutes for questions. For larger PBL groups (5 or more) presentations will be 45 minutes (30 min presentation and 15 min for Q&A). Part of the assessment will include time management, so keeping to time and allowing enough time for questions is important here. The presentations will be formatively assessed by the conveners of the relevant seminar series, the Academic Director, members of the academic team and peers. The convenor will provide feedback on the content of the presentation (which should include reflections on the process of completing the task) as well as group presentation style. Peer feedback will be given on a group basis, and then summarised, but will not contribute to the convenors’ overall feedback.

A small number of interested individuals, for example, members of the Lived Experience Group, or members of other professional groups with relevance to the PBL exercise may attend to give further formative feedback. In this case you will be informed prior to the presentation.

PBL 5, focuses on interview with a leader in practice and follows a different format. Please see PBL 5 interview with a leader guidelines.

In the PBL 1 to 4 presentations, your group will be expected to show that you have addressed the following content issues:

  • Addressed any specific questions raised in the PBL exercise
  • Given a clear statement of the problem
  • Considered the therapeutic alliance whether it be with a client, client group or system
  • Psychological assessment – planned a systematic assessment and gathered a range of information from a variety of sources to help put the problem in context and to add to the understanding of the problem.
  • Formulation – reached a clear and concise written formulation derived from theory/research and taking into account the information from the assessment. The formulation should show an increase in sophistication across the PBL exercises with evidence of an awareness of the range of conceptual frameworks for understanding psychological distress and well-being (e.g., medical model, diagnostic categories, transdiagnostic approaches and perspectives of people with lived experience of conditions and services). The role of structural factors, such as cultural background, gender and socio-economic status in the development of psychological distress and well-being, should also be recognised.
  • Intervention – where appropriate, made plans for an intervention, which follow from the formulation. An awareness of the strengths and limitations of evidence-based practice should be increasingly evident, as should the ability to recognise when innovation in intervention or service provision will provide the best solution to the problem(s) posed. 
    It should also be apparent that the intervention has been informed by values based practice.
  • Evaluation – given consideration to how the intervention might be evaluated and what the outcome is likely to be given the theory and research relevant to the case.
  • Risk – taken a positive approach to the assessment and management of risk, balancing competing priorities and needs
  • Critical evaluation – shown evidence of critical reflection both on the content and process of the PBL exercise, as well as any relevant professional issues.

The group exercise will also be assessed on a number of aspects of process, including task and role allocation, group working, time management, reflections on the process and content of the work and approach to comments and questions.

Finally, the exercise will also be rated in terms of presentation skills such as audibility, eye contact, creativity of approach and use of visual aids. Groups may use flip charts, PowerPoint or other media to illustrate their presentations.

NB All trainees are expected to collaborate actively and fully in the group exercises and this includes co-operating with peers in allocating study time to un-facilitated group work. Please refer to the Programme chapter Assessment Conventions for the regulations regarding absence from the group work or presentation resulting from illness or absence.

Marking and feedback forms for the PBL presentation

Convenor assessment and feedback form PBL presentation

Peer feedback PBL presentation