Monday, June 23, 2008

#13: Problem-based learning

As previously mentioned, some schools try to buck the mold by using a teaching method called "problem-based learning." This entails having students do lots and lots of problems instead of emphasizing lectures. It was developed at a university in Canada, which explains why it sucks so hard.

Problem-based learning is touted by its proponents as being a non-traditional way of teaching, which is a surefire way of knowing that it's not quite as good as the usual method. One big drawback to problem-based learning is that doing problems over and over again becomes really tedious after about 13 seconds. However, the bigger drawback to problem-based learning is that students never actually learn the principles behind the problems that they solve. They become like little monkeys who can apply the right equation to a given problem, but have no deeper understanding than that. When it comes time to study for a national exam such as the USMLE Step 1, which asks questions requiring integration of fundamental concepts in medicine, these students are basically screwed.

Most lecture-based schools include a little bit of problem-based learning in something called "small group." Small group sucks really hard too, but it is only a taste of what problem-based schoolers go through. Every night before they sleep, lecture-based schoolers offer this prayer: "Dear God, please keep me and my family safe. And thank you for not sending me to a problem-based learning school. Amen."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I fear your understanding of PBL is inaccurate. We are not talking about college physics. Med school PBL presents the information in a form of a case rather then sitting in lecture for hours looking at powerpoints and remembering every detail that is mentioned. Looks like to me this is an example of "little monkeys". PBL allows students to not just focus on one subject but combines all aspects to fully understand the disease. Lecture is focused course by course while PBL combines them all at once so you can see the connection. Maybe this is why schools with a PBL curriculum have far better board scores as compared to lecture based schools.