Shift in learning
You might have already heard about the emerging learning theories making a fundamental shift – from a focus on teachers’ knowledge transfer to a focus on learner-driven learning experiences. As the CEF Collaborative Learning team, we realized that this is something we already practice in much of our work, even though we haven’t given it a title yet. We support reform processes in the region through supporting finance officials’ collaborative learning on shared challenges.
A recent online course (MOOC) initiated by Maastricht University gave us the opportunity to more systematically discuss a collaborative learning approach – Problem-Based Learning (PBL) – which allowed us to (i) fully realize the meaning of this method and underlying ideology; and (ii) get ready to better support colleagues in applying elements of such approaches. The MOOC introduced us to the concept of PBL through applying it first-hand. In this post, I’d like to share what I took away from this exciting learning experience, and suggest ways how it might fit our (your) learning environment.
Key features of PBL
- Engages the individual learner in the learning process
- Focuses on enhancing learners’ motivation to learn
- Enables active, contextual, collaborative learning
- Enables learners to not only learn, but plan, design, produce, evaluate, and refine the matter
- Links learning to real-world concerns (challenges)
- Fosters strong collaboration among learners
- Develops various skills crucial for problem-solving and obtaining sustainable results
- Establishes open climate – safe environment – freedom of speech
- Supports learning through a guiding tutor (in our case, a facilitator)
- Empowers learners in influencing their learning journey
- Strengthens diagnostic reasoning, problem-solving, and self-paced learning skills
- Provides opportunities to activate and refresh prior knowledge
Throughout the MOOC, I have backed up my understanding with solid research that PBL is used across various disciplines, especially in practice-oriented, multi-disciplinary learning, bringing significant results in training competent and skilled practitioners, and promoting long-term knowledge retention.
What aspects need particular attention when introducing PBL elements?
- Encouraging learners to break out of their past habits (= change the way they think)
- Managing cultural differences
- Enhancing one’s own skills as learning facilitators
- Constant monitoring of learning process
- Identifying challenges that are priority to our target audience
- Facilitating that challenges are voiced in the right format and level of detail
- Assuring challenges have appropriate level of complexity to arouse interest and engage learners
- Defining challenges that best match prior knowledge and experience
- Keeping challenges regularly tested and up-to-date
- Ensuring that the learning process keeps momentum
Main strengths of successfully incorporating elements of PBL in our work:
- Easy access to learning resources through other learners
- Continuous improvement and idea-generation
- Enabling smooth cross-country collaboration and knowledge exchange
- Wider networking and increased visibility
- Timely actions taken by finance officials
- Strengthening the CEF’s role as a knowledge hub in the region
Now we are at an initiation stage of our new learning methods and environment. Along the way, I have no doubts that more challenges will surface and we have to be ready to deal with them; however, each of your contributions and feedback counts! Can you identify…
- How or where can elements of PBL fit in our activities?
- What challenges do you face in your work?