Sunday, January 21, 2007

Problem Based Learning

Attended a two days problem based learning (PBL) workshop organised by Monash University School of Medicine in Malaysia.

Problem based learning is a new way of teaching medicine which involved a paradigm shift in thinking about medical education. The traditional way of teaching medicine involves the first two years of classroom based lectures on basic medical sciences (preclinical) and then three years of rotations in the wards of the various medical disciplines (clinical). Problem based learning curriculum integrates all learning so that instead of dividing the curriculum into preclinical and clinical, it integrates the preclinical and clinical together.


What is innovative is that instead of approaching medical education from the basic sciences, PBL approaches from a set of clinical problems. This is more akin to the real world when the new doctors face patients who come to see them with a set of problems rather than medical science issues. That the ultraconservative medical education did reinvent itself is very impressive and worth noting.

The basis of this change is because of new development in adult learning theories. In essence (courtesy of Prof Paul Fullerton) it was found that adult learning were found to be
(1) independent and self directing
(2) accumulated experience- a rich resource for learning
(3) learning by integrating with demands of everyday life
(4) interested in immediate, problem centered approaches more than subject centered ones
(5) motivated to learn by internal drives, rather than external ones

I wonder whether problem based learning can be implemented in the Christian education and the pulpit ministry of our churches. In a sense problem based learning is not something new to the Bible and church traditions. Most of the New Testament and church doctrines were written because of problems created by the Judiazers, agnostics, syncretism in churches, Marcion and others. Problems were what stimulated discussions and the formulation of the gospels, epistles and church creeds.

In one sense, Christian education is still preclinical and clinical (systematic theology/propositions). Yet, all Christians struggle with how to live a Christian life in unChristian/post Christian, multicultural, pluralistic society. Would it not make sense to approach church teaching through problems (how to do business in a culture where bribery is considered normal, how to be good parents, how not to be a consumer driven church) rather than through propositions (what is the Trinity, what is the importance of the cross, what is a church)?

I am not saying is that propositions are not important but that it is the way we teach them so that the teaching be relevant to the learners. One of my observations is that many Christians are discouraged because they find what is preached and taught in churches are not relevant to their lives. Seminary graduates enter church ministries with "the right anwers, but to the wrong questions."

I believe that theological institutions and churches need to consider a paradigm shift in their education strategies and one of the possibilities is to adopt a problem based approach.

Soli deo gloria

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2 Comments:

Anonymous alwyn said...

excellent! i REALLY think our 'normal' ways of conducting bible-study, cell-groups, (sermons?), could do with a huge dose of PBL-ism...the church is waaaaaay too 'passive' in our education methods, don'tcha think? it's all absorb absorb absorb, whilst all around us the world is innovating in so many learning areas.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

yes, i think we really need to review the way we 'educate' Christians in churches and theological institutions.

The world in innovating in many learning areas yet we remain stuck in the 'instructional-schooling model'.

11:33 PM  

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