College of Health and Human Services

Schools & Divisions

School of Medicine
Problem-Based (Case-Based) Learning Approach

For 19 years after its founding in 1972, Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest offered a traditional first and second year medical curriculum. Beginning with the 1989-1990 academic year, the Northwest Campus introduced an innovative curriculum with heavy emphasis on problem solving and active learning. The highlights of this new curriculum include: (a) Problem-based learning (PBL) sessions, where small groups of five to seven students meet three times a week for two hours to discuss and analyze patient cases in the presence of a faculty moderator. During these student-directed PBL sessions, students set learning objectives, generate and test hypotheses, share learned information, and apply knowledge of basic science principles to the care of patients. (b) Small numbers of lectures presented by experienced faculty supplementing the PBL sessions by providing helpful overviews of key concepts; (c) Organization of the first- and second-year curricula into seven sequential "steps" or units, allowing students to concentrate all their studies to one subject at a time; (c) Basic science laboratories in Gross Anatomy, Histology, Neuroscience, and Pathology, providing active-learning experiences that reinforce and expand the knowledge base attained during PBL sessions and lectures; and (e) PBL sessions, lectures, and laboratories end by noon each day, allowing ample time for independent study and one or more afternoons per week for other patient based activities.


The seven steps (courses) of the IU School of Medicine-Northwest PBL curriculum are:

First Year

Step 1 The Molecular Basis of Medicine (6 weeks) (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology)
Step 2 Human Structure (11 weeks)(Gross Anatomy, Histology, Cell Biology)
Step 3 Systemic Function and Drug Action (6 weeks)(Physiology)
Step 4 Neural Control and Disease (6 weeks) (Neuroscience)
Step 5 Medications and Disease (6 weeks) (Pharmacology)
Doctor-Patient Relationship (dispersed throughout the first-year)

Second Year

Step 6 Invasion and Defense(11 weeks)(General Pathology, Microbiology, Immunology)
Step 7 Pathophysiology and Advanced (24 weeks)
Problem Solving (Introduction to Medicine, Systemic Pathology, Advanced Doctor / Patient Relationship)

Academic Bulletins

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IUN Bulletin

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