Problem-Based Learning
in the Sciences and Liberal Arts

Articles and resource materials prepared by P.K. Rangachari


Problems | Evaluation Exercises | Publications

I believe strongly that a University exists for the benefit of students rather than faculty or administrators. One can benefit them most if one permits them greater autonomy.

To that end, I have been involved in a variety of courses that foster student-centred learning. These include courses in diverse programmes (MD undergraduate, Hons. Biology-Pharmacology Coop Programme, Arts and Sciences Programme, Bachelor of Health Sciences Programme, as well as the Graduate Programme). 

The purpose of this webpage is to provide materials that I have developed for the student-centred, problem-based courses I have taught.  The hope is that they may provide insight or inspiration to others who wish to design problem-based courses in the sciences and liberal arts.  Materials will be added to this site as time and availability permits (see below).  Please feel free to email me if you have specific questions or comments relating to PBL.

I have designed several courses that are conducted in the standard small-group variant of the problem-based approach. These include a 3rd year Introductory Pharmacology course and a 4th year Pharmacoepidemiology course for the Hons. Biology-Pharmacology Coop programme as well as a Graduate course (the physiological basis of Pharmacology).

In addition, for a number of years I have taught an Inquiry Course for the Arts and Sciences Programme. The first course I taught for this Programme was entitled The Curing Society, and dealt with the larger issues related to health and illness.   More recently I introduced a new course entitled Discovery: The Context of Research, which examines the context (antecedents and consequences) of scientific discovery. Both these courses required a modified problem-based format to accommodate the larger number of students (20-24).

* A selection of problems used in the above courses, with commentary, is provided in Writing Problems:  A Personal Casebook.
* Problems written for use in evaluation exercises are described, with examples, in The TRIPSE: A Process-centred Evaluation Exercise.

I have also organised and conducted workshops on Problem-Based Learning in several countries, and help in those that are held at here at McMaster University under the auspices of the Programme for Faculty Development.

P.K. Rangachari Sonny Olatunji Tim Chen Carlo Hojilla Jo-Anne Clarke Sean Jedrzkiewicz Christine Brenckmann Simon Cheung Saira Bahl Nicole Brazier Jennifer Fergenbaum Daniella Checchin Dominika Dabrowski Vanessa Johari Nicole Ferko Chris Pickering P.K. Rangachari and students
P.K. Rangachari with students from the Honours Biology-Pharmacology Co-op Programme.
Run cursor over picture to see names


  1. Rangachari, P.K. (1988). Concerning the curriculum. Persp. Biol. Med. 31(3):369-380.
  2. Rangachari, P.K. (1989). Simulated job interviews as learning devices. Acad Medicine, Aug. 438-439.
  3. Rangachari, P.K. (1991). Review of Gould SJ. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. Pedagogue 2, No. 4, Winter 1990. [Full text]
  4. Rangachari, P.K. (1991). Purkyne, Pestalozzi and the teaching of physiology. Pedagogue 3, Summer, 5-6. [Full text]
  5. Rangachari, P.K. (1991). Design of a problem-based undergraduate course in Pharmacology: Implications for the teaching of physiology. Am. J. Physiol. 260 (Adv.Physiol.Educ. 5): S14-S21. [Abstract]
  6. Rangachari, P.K. (1992). Inequality of educational roles. Guest editorial, Pedagogue 3, No. 4, Winter 1991-92, p. 2. [Full text]
  7. Rangachari, P.K. (1994). Quality Education in Pharmacology: A Canadian Experiment Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 15: 211-214. [Abstract]
  8. Rangachari, P.K. (1994). The Word is the Deed:The Ideology of the Research Article in Experimental Sciences. Am. J. Physiol. (Adv. Physiol. Educ.) 267:S120-S136. [Abstract]
  9. Rangachari, P.K. (1994). The teaching of pharmacology: needs, challenges and responses for the future. Trends in Pharmacol. Sci. 15:399-402.
  10. Rawnsley, K., Spaziani, R. and Rangachari, P.K. (1994) Evaluation in a problem-based course: contrasting views of students and teacher. Probe No. 12, p. 9-14. [Full text]
  11. Rangachari, P.K. and Mierson, S. (1995). A checklist to help students analyse published articles in basic medical sciences. Am.J.Physiol. (Adv. Physiol. Educ.13) 268: S21-S25. [Abstract]
  12. Rangachari, P.K. (1995). Active learning: in context. Am. J. Physiol. (Adv. Physiol. Educ.13) 268:S75-S80. [Abstract]
  13. Rangachari, P.K. and Crankshaw, D.J. (1996) Beyond facilitation: the active tutor in a problem-based course. Biochem. Ed. 24(4):192-195.
  14. Rangachari, P.K. (1996). Review of David Clandfield, John Sivell, ed. and trans., Co-operative Learning and Social Change. Selected Writings of Célestin Freinet. Pedagogue 6, No. 3, Summer 1996. [Full text]
  15. Rangachari, P.K. (1996). Review of John Sivell, ed., Freinet Pedagogy: Theory and Practice. Pedagogue 7, No. 1, Winter 1996-97. [Full text]
  16. Rangachari, P.K. (1997). Basic Sciences in an Integrated Medical Curriculum: The case of Pharmacology. Adv. Health Sci. Educ. 2: 163-171.
  17. Rangachari, P.K. (1997). Evidence-based medicine: old French wine with a new Canadian label. J. Roy. Soc. Med. 90(5): 280-284.
  18. Rangachari, P.K. (1998). Review of Kay, L.E., The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of the New Biology, and Rheinberger, H.-J., Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube. Am. J. Physiol. (Adv. Physiol. Educ.) 19: S106-S108. [Full text PDF]
  19. Rangachari, P.K. (2000) "Give us good measure": the basic medical sciences and the overloaded curriculum. Clin. Invest. Med. 23: 39-46.
  20. Rangachari, P.K. (2000) Exploring the context of biomedical research through a problem-based course for undergraduate students. Am. J. Physiol. (Adv. Physiol. Educ.) 23: 40-51. [Abstract] [Full text PDF]
  21. Rangachari, P.K. (2001) Problem-based learning at McMaster University: an inside view. Dolor 16:129-134. 
  22. Rangachari P.K. (2002) The TRIPSE: A Process oriented evaluation for PBL courses in basic sciences. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 30: 57–60.  [Full text PDF


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Book chapters and conference proceedings

  1. Rangachari, P.K. (1990). Student-centered contextual learning for undergraduates in science: a case report. Proc. Ontario Show & Tell Conference p.111-118.
  2. Rangachari, P.K. and Rosenfeld, J. (1991) The Group Triple Jump: A process-oriented examination for a problem-based course. Proc. 4th Instructional Show and Tell Conference for Ontario Universities and Colleges. p. 103-106.
  3. Rangachari, P.K. (1991) The Curing Society: Problem-based learning in a large group format. Proc. 4th Instructional Show and Tell Conf. for Ontario Universities and Colleges. p. 97-102.
  4. Rangachari, P.K. and Crankshaw, D.J. (1992). Formative evaluation in a tutorial-based course. Proc. 5th Instructional Show & Tell Conference, U. Guelph. p. 125-131.
  5. Rangachari, P.K. (1994) The Ruth Gales Scholars: High School Students in a Research Laboratory Proc. 7th Instructional Show & Tell Conference, Guelph. p. 95-97.
  6. Rangachari, P.K., Williams, P.B., Crankshaw, D.J., Carpenter, J.R., Williams, D.W., Ebeigbe, A.B. and Omogbai, E.K.I. (1995) Providing quality education in pharmacology: the affordable options. In: Pharmacological Sciences: Perspectives for Research and Therapy in the Late 1990s (eds. A.C. Cuello and B. Collier). Birkhauser Verlag, Basel. Rangachari, P.K. (1996) Problem-based assessment: no easy way out. Proc. Symposium on Teacher Training in Medicine, Istanbul University.
  7. Rangachari, P.K. (1996) Twenty Up: Problem-based Learning with a Large Group. In: Bringing Problem-Based Learning to Higher Education: Theory and Practice, ed. L. Wilkerson & W.H. Giljselaers. New Directions for Teaching and Learning vol. 68, Winter 1996, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.


Links to external sites are included for information purposes only. No endorsement is intended. 

In the lab P.K. Rangachari is a Professor of Medicine at McMaster University and Director of the Honours Biology & Pharmacology Co-op Programme.  
He is a recipient of McMaster University's President's Award for Excellence in Teaching (Educational Leadership), and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Teaching Award.
His research in intestinal physiology and pharmacology is carried out in the Intestinal Disease Research Programme.
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