Sunday, October 25, 2009

Problem Based Learning

     Students from the Post Graduate Diploma and Masters in Learning and Teaching participating in a Problem Based Learning Workshop in the Centre for Research and Innovation in Learning and Teaching at National College of Ireland
This year we are running a new course at National College of Ireland - the Post-Graduate Diploma and MA in Learning and Teaching.  I am course director for this course and I present a module on Theories of Learning and Cognition.
We have a core of sixteen students with some additional attendees from the PhD course and faculty development.  The students come from a wide variety of backgrounds with one thing in common - a passion and commitment for learning and education.
We used an instructional approach know as Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as a means of integrating the three semester one modules on Theories of Learning, Research Methods and Philosophy of Education.
PBL was structured around a series of workshops on Tuesday evenings and Saturdays.  My colleague Rachel Doherty from the School of Business organised the students in groups to complete a series of authentic tasks.
In the first exercise the group tasks were to compose and present a series of student induction presentations - the kind that would be presented to new students starting a college course.

Each group was given a different profile for the entry cohort.  In one case the students were adult returners with no previous formal education, another had to prepare for recent graduates continuing to a post-graduate course and still another had to present to a group of busy professionals attending a career oriented course.
Organised in this way students had to draw on theory, research and underlying philosophy to prepare their solutions to the problems.  This is PBL in action.
Afterwards, students were asked to write a reflection - on the whole PBL was very enthusiastically endorsed.
From a teachers perspective there is a lot of work involved in preparing the workshops - thanks to Rachel for doing this - and we needed to work out a fairly detailed assessment matrix to make sure that individual and group participation was recognised.  Most of the marks go for the process rather than the outcome - this is characteristic PBL.

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