Friday, February 12, 2016

Problem Based Learning

Yesterday afternoon I chose to attend (and it was recommended by my mentor) a lecture/learning workshop through the Office of Educational Development at UTMB about "problem based learning" presented by Oma Morey, who has been teaching PBL for years. What exactly is PBL? UTMB defines it as a form of experiential learning focused on the investigation, explanation, and resolution of real-world clinical problems. What does that mean? The students are given a clinical case to learn from and they are required to collaborate to find solutions to the case. It is primarily used in the med school for students to facilitate their learning. 

I went to the building and was given a well put-together binder with all the information I would need over the next 4 hours. Several other professors and faculty members were in attendance, all from the school of medicine and school of nursing, and another OT professor attended the workshop too. After learning the basics of PBL, we took the student role and worked through a case presented to us as we would if we were in a PBL class, which was quite interesting and flowed naturally with professionals.

The format for teaching is as follows:
- problem identification
- hypotheses
- learning issues
- additional information
- discussion

Each case is presented over two or three days, where the students explore knowledge, generate a problem list and ideas that may be causing the problems, and determine unknowns in the first day. Day 2 starts with a discussion of learning issues, presenting the patient, applying unknowns to the case, revisit and narrow hypotheses, and continue unfolding the case until a solution is reached. Sound complicated? Truly it is simple once you have an understanding of what you're trying to accomplish. 

Afterwards, we had a short debriefing session and a session structure layout for facilitators. I have to admit, I was skeptical of going at first thinking this will be boring and I'm going to fall asleep but I quite enjoyed it! Some other handy paperwork was also in the binder, including evidence supporting problem based learning over lecture based learning and team learning, as well as information on additional facilitator skills workshops at later dates (this was an intro course FYI). 

Needless to say I learned a lot of helpful information from it, but I'm not sure it is an appropriate approach for OT students, simply because we do some PBL in lectures and so much of our knowledge comes from fieldwork experiences. 

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