“Enhancing learning via emotional connectedness” in PBL

Problem-based learning (PBL) is practiced in many ways.  In clinical programs (veterinary, medical ,therapy) the cases are generally ones for which there is a best or even correct diagnosis and treatment.   PBL in my teaching (see also) fosters explorations governed not by such a endpoint, only by having to present in a set time something in relation to the case.  Yet, it seems from the conclusion of this article, which concerns PBL in a Clinical Psychology program in England, that there are similarities in the experience.

Saskia Keville , Becci Davenport , Becky Adlington , Isis Davidson-Olssen , Michael Cornish , Andrew Parkinson & Louise-Margaret Conlan (2013): A river runs through it: enhancing learning via emotional connectedness. Can problem-based learning facilitate this?, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2013.767231

Allowing the flow to be as it is
Creating a safe environment where people can express themselves in their own way and at their own rate can allow the group to function as a whole. Difference is multifaceted: within and between individuals, groups or facilitators; even the facilitation of each group can be different. There is complexity in this myriad of experience, but the bottom line is we are all humans with the same basic needs. Similar to each river, in any given context we are all within the movement of the flow whether we want to be or not. We may be resisting it, directing it, or surrendering to it. Given that trainees have to complete PBL tasks to qualify, each trainee has to generally flow in the direction the group is going in; yet how they start this process and where they finish may be starkly different. The obstacles in the way may be similar, yet placed in uniquely different positions and ways. Yet we all know a river when we see it; there is uniformity to them. It is only in looking more deeply that we may see how they differ; rather like humans on their life journeys, or in this context, individuals within a PBL group.
Facilitating a PBL group is a unique privilege. It can be an opportunity to be human and congruent. This parallels a therapeutic environment, where we truly sit with an individual and have the permission to find out their unique life stories. With this knowledge we may understand context and underlying reasons for an experience, facilitating us to think how a situation can be different. This may enable movement onto alternative paths more fitting with personal values enabling the achievement of goals…

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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