22 SES 07 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
In Problem-based learning (PBL) courses, the students are posed a question as part of an enquiry. This question can be a scenario, so that through their research, they explore a range of potential responses to this scenario in order to support children and their family with a problematic issue (Savin-Baden and Major, 2004). The research project in this paper focuses on an established PBL course, chosen as an option, by third-year undergraduate students within a University programme in Childhood studies in the North-West of England.
Following on from the work of Cousins (2009), we examine three aspects, a. what may be considered fundamental to the effective facilitation required by a PBL course, b. how tutors feel they have managed the process of supporting students in learning in such a manner, c. what support strategies are required for both tutor and student in order to create maximum engagement within this type of course. The concept of Threshold concepts articulates the required knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts in order to gain mastery of the subject. As part of this, we include liminal states for both tutors and students, where for the tutors, there is the requirement to relinquish what may have been difficult to have mastered in the first place, that of expert knowledge transfer specialist and to occupy an unstable place where knowledge and understanding must be created by the participants, with the tutor one of many enquirers. For the students also, the course provides a difficult transformation from the known to the unknown within a context of high personal value, for as a third year undergraduate course, the assessments for the course carried a proportion of the degree classification.
A previous research project (Orlandi and Anderson, 2012) had investigated student perceptions of PBL and the potential learning gains experienced at the end of such a course. The course design was intended to give the students an opportunity to engage with the professional duties, skills, knowledge and understanding required in order to equip them more fully with the exacting requirements of entering the children’s workforce as graduate workers. Yet the requirements acting on tutors were unclear. Understanding the threshold concepts for the tutors in gaining mastery of effective facilitation in PBL courses required further research from a different perspective.
Cousins, G. (2009) Researching learning in Higher Education. Abingdon: Routledge Fetterman, D.M. (2010) Ethnography. Step-by-step (3rd edn).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Orlandi, K. and Anderson, B. (2012) Researching the role of dialogue, writing and critical reflection in unlearning for students with professional backgrounds. Teaching Anthropology, 2 (1), pp. 22-27 Savin-Baden, M. and Major, C. H. (2004) Foundations of Problem-based learning. Maidenhead: Open University Press
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