UD program goes to Peru
Published: Monday, September 26, 2005
Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 05:07
Two prfessors traveled to Peru in August for the fifth time to continue working on an effort to implement problem based learning at the Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima.
Professors Deborah Allen and George Watson, the university's problem based learning representatives, said the Peruvians were interested in adopting problem based learning in the sciences. The Peruvians conducted an Internet search and found that the university had what they were looking for, Allen said.
The university has been a leader in problem based learning, since it was introduced into the Medical Scholars Program in 1992, Allen stated in an e-mail message. PBL is a teaching style used to encourage students to work in research groups and think independently to solve real-world problems, according to the university's PBL Web site.
The Peruvians traveled to the university in 2001 to learn PBL methods and how to conduct workshops of their own. Allen said she offers eight to 10 workshops each year and is asked to do more, but cannot due to time constraints.
Allen has worked with George Watson, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to spread PBL in Peru, Iceland, Bolivia, Ecuador and Lebanon.
Biochemistry professor Hal White said the university has become a mentor to the Universidad Catolica. The Peruvian university is now seen as a pioneer of problem based learning in South America and is working to spread the method throughout the region.
The history of Problem Based Learning
White said the university has been a leader in PBL since it became one of the first undergraduate programs to embrace the teaching method.
Most teachers who try PBL continue to use it, and they may end up phasing out lecturing all together, White said. There is no one way to use problem based learning. The philosophy is constant, but the use depends on the teacher.
Any kind of active learning is better than just sitting in on a lecture, he said.
"Attendance for PBL classes is around 95 percent and about 50 percent for large lectures," he said. "It addresses issues that lectures can't."
Stephen Bernhardt, chairman of the English department, said PBL has become prevalent in many of the sciences at the university since it was first used in the Medical Scholars Program. It is not, however, restricted to the sciences.
"In a text centered class, it's hard to envision using problem based learning," he said. "If you have to write a story, that can be problem solving."
Bernhardt also said professors can create problems to solve in writing and reading.
PBL is more team-oriented compared to Bernhardt's previous style of teaching, he said. Students must communicate, distribute the work evenly and organize what each student will bring to the group.
"It changes teaching because it expects students to show initiative and be active instead of being told what to know like in lecture," he said. "You can't do problem based learning by sitting in your seat. You have to get up and find the answer."
However, other than course evaluations, there is no official documentation proving problem based learning is more effective than lecturing, White said.
Students have reacted both negatively and positively to the new teaching style.
Junior Joe Raimondo said he sees some flaws in PBL.
"It's group based," he said. "Someone in the group can do most of the work and the other people don't do anything, and you all get the same grade."
But freshman Mark Sausen said he sees obvious advantages in PBL.
"It's better because there are other people in your group," he said. "Everyone is in the same boat and everyone is working toward the same goal and the professor is helping you toward that goal."