Problem-Based Learning (Physician Assistant)

The following is an example of a Statement for a physician assistant program that responds to a very specific prompt.  Because the prompt was so specific we have included it with the essay below.

[Redacted] School of Medicine embraces a wide array of adult and applied learning methodologies within its educational program. The Physician Assistant Program has designed and modified its curriculum around the principles of adult learning and our own educational research. A significant portion of our training is accomplished through Problem-Based Learning(PBL). PBL is a student-centered instructional strategy in which students collaboratively solve problems and reflect on their experiences. In the PBL learning process students, in small groups of 6 to 8 students, encounter a problem and attempt to solve it with information they already posses, allowing them to appreciate what they already know. Students also identify what they need to learn to better understand the problem and resolve it.  Please describe your motivation for being enrolled in a program that emphasizes adult and applied learning methodologies, such as PBL. If you have prior experience with related methodologies, please briefly describe those.  Answer should be 500 words or less.


Participating in a program that uses Problem-Based Learning is something that both excites me and draws me to [redacted].  In my undergraduate years my primary method of learning was rote memorization.  It was a style I adapted to quickly, and that I used to my advantage.  This method has helped me to build a large base of knowledge from which I am able to easily regurgitate statistics and facts.

Since entering the work force in the real world, though, I have found that a large base of knowledge does not always mean that you will know what to do with that knowledge or how to apply it correctly.  Hands on experience, and practice solving problems and making decisions are not things that can be acquired by reading textbooks or by flipping through a stack of flashcards.  My current position as the operating room medical technician allows me to learn in an interactive environment. When the patient goes under anesthesia the operating room becomes the most engaging classroom I have had the privilege of learning in. I have watched, and participated, as the OR staff adjusts a plan or procedure to overcome an unforeseen problem.  Surgery, like all of medicine, can be unpredictable and it is necessary to be able to adapt and think quickly.

Based on this experience I believe that the best learning method is to engage someone in a problem while guiding them through the learning process. Eliciting information from students, rather than giving them the answers, forces them to think critically about the material, drawing on their past experiences and their latent knowledge.  Learning is not something that is done passively, it requires the student’s active participation and interaction – a student that has taken the time to figure out a pattern for themselves will have a much stronger command of the subject matter than a student that has had the answers given to them.

Working in the OR I have had this proven to me over and over again.  I have acquired so much practical knowledge that comes with being challenged to overcome a problem, knowledge that would be difficult to glean from reading a textbook alone. I am looking for a program that will continually engage me as I learn, and that will prepare me to be able to think critically about the cases I am presented with.  I am confident that [redacted] is exactly that kind of program.


This essay won the applicant admission to her first choice school.

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