Year Four Courses

Four Week Electives

PED 739 - Pediatric Cardiology Elective with global health experience (4th year) - 5

Instructor: Linda Pauliks, MD


PBL 743 - Problem-Based Learning Facilitation


Credits: 5


Program Directors:

  • Carol Whitfield, Ph.D


Contact Information:



No course failures. A HP or H grade in 1 course and 1 clerkship. No noted unprofessional behaviors in PBL. A first-time pass in all NBME subject exams and USMLE Step I. A recommendation letter. A course director signature.
1. The potential facilitator must be in good academic standing and have completed the required 3rd year clerkships (medicine, surgery, ob/gyn, pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine).
2. They must have performed well as a student in PBL sessions.
3. There must be a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who has worked closely with the student and who has knowledge of the student’s abilities and skills that would be important for someone serving as a facilitator (e.g. sense of responsibility, dependability, professionalism, good knowledge base, interest in inquiry).
4. Enrollment in the course will be limited, relative to the student’s qualifications, the need for facilitators and availability of faculty facilitators.


When Offered:

Every month except May, June, July, and December. The January teaching block is limited to 4 students.


Length Of Course:

1 month






This is a one-month elective course for MSIV students who are interested in being a facilitator in the PBL component of Penn State College of Medicine’s preclinical curriculum. It may be of special interest to students who are planning to go into an academic medicine setting. The AAMC Project on the Clinical Education of Medical Students recommends that “teaching resident physicians to be teachers should begin in medical school”, and that it is beneficial to “provide opportunities for senior students to learn teaching skills, and to gain teaching experience by having them tutor more junior students who are learning clinical skills or serve as co-facilitators for case-based learning exercises”. Students who have recently gone through the interview process for residency matching have reported that they were often asked about their teaching experiences. In the past, we have had MSIV students facilitate in the PBL track that existed from 1992-1998, and at the beginning of the new curriculum. The ‘student facilitators’ enjoyed the experience, and the students in their groups gave very positive evaluations of them.

The LOR should come from a faculty member with whom you have worked, preferably in year 3, and not your PBL facilitators. It should address things like your suitability as a role model for younger students, responsibility, knowledge base, interest in learning, fairness in dealing with others, and whatever else they might want to say.  It can be emailed to Dr. Whitfield, or sent in hard copy as they prefer.


Course Objectives:

At the end of this rotation, students should have gained
1. A basic knowledge of educational theories that are used in the design of problem-based learning.
2. Developed a knowledge of basic skills in facilitating small, student-led groups.
3. Gained practical experience in facilitating PBL sessions.
4. Gained practical experience in assessing student performance in PBL sessions.


Additional Information:

1. The student must attend a facilitator training session, to review the role that the facilitator fulfills in PBL, and to learn some of the skills of facilitation.
2. Assigned readings in PBL, adult learning theory and small group facilitation will be provided.
3. The student is expected to have weekly meetings with the course director to review their experiences, and discuss the reading assignments.

Grading: 1. A brief paper (7-10 pages) containing the following items is also required.
• a summary of the experience
• examples of how the lessons in the assigned readings were applied
• the student’s self-evaluation of their facilitation skills
• suggestions for improving the course

This paper will be the basis for 80% of the course grade