How to tackle the problems of Problem-Based LearningPress release 25 June 2012
Although Problem-Based Learning (PBL), the education model used by Maastricht University since its foundation, suits our current understanding of learning very well, it still needs permanent innovation to stimulate better ways of learning. This is the core message of Professor Diana Dolmans’ Inaugural lecture, which she is to hold on 27 June when she accepts the Chair for Innovative Learning Environments at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences. The title of the lecture is Innovation for Better Learning.
For years, Diana Dolmans has been studying innovative learning environments in general, with a focus on problem-Based Learning. Problem-Based Learning methods feature environments where the students work under the supervision of a tutor in groups of approximately ten students on problems or educational tasks. In her inaugural speech, Professor Dolmans discusses what we have learnt so far about Problem-Based Learning and which aspects need more research, touching more specifically on the problem areas of Problem-Based Learning in its current form. “Just like any other kind of education, Problem-Based Learning is not effective in all circumstances.” For instance, discussions in the tutorial groups might be too superficial. The members of the group might not put in enough effort or have not prepared for it properly, or they might not be sufficiently interested. Dolmans also identifies the possible causes and presents some solutions to these problems.
As for her own research agenda, Dolmans intends to do more explanatory research instead of only comparing the results of the education and the curriculum, as is often the case in modern research. She wants to focus on “studies that centre on a better understanding and explanations of the complex processes in education and learning, with many interacting aspects — studies that contain primary questions such as: why and under which conditions is problem-based learning effective?”
Her research will be concentrated on three crucial aspects of the learning environment: 1) the problems or educational tasks, 2) the group, and 3) the tutors. “When I start work on this research agenda, I would like to involve people with practical experience in this field because they can be a major source of inspiration for the study. Many tutors and doctors in our research group are dedicated to analysing and innovating their practical work in education and to understanding learning.” Part of her research also examines the role of tutors in internal quality care. Recent doctoral research has revealed that continual improvement of the quality of the education demands that the tutors create a culture of quality by means of close collaboration between tutors and adequate formal and informal communication. Dolmans feels very happy to have found her niche with this position at Maastricht University, particularly as educational innovations are given priority at Maastricht, which is evident from the “Leading in Learning” programme.
Note for the press:
Professor Diana Dolmans will hold her inaugural lecture titled Innovation for Better Learning on Wednesday, 27 June at 4:30 p.m. in the Aula, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht.
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