Science - November 11, 2004

Problem-based learning needs revision

Wageningen University is going to radically revise its problem-based learning. At present the term (shortened to PGO) includes all forms of group work that are used in teaching here. The original problem-based learning developed at Maastricht University should be the standard for the reintroduced form.

‘If we continue with PGO we have to do it the right way. At present there are people who have developed their own variations, and that’s not working. We need to go back to Maastricht to learn how to do it properly.’ These were rector Bert Speelman’s words in response to the Student Council’s plea that something needs to be done about problem-based learning in Wageningen.

Before the summer break the PSF student fraction presented its report based on the PGO survey it had carried out. The report showed that many students were not happy with the way PGO is done at Wageningen University. The objectives are not clear and working in groups is not always effective. The Student Council suggested that the problems are a result of the lack of clear policy guidelines when PGO was introduced and the variety of forms that have arisen.

Whereas in the past Speelman has pointed an accusing finger at the chair groups that are ultimately responsible for doing the teaching, he admitted last Tuesday during the Student Council meeting that the problems need to be dealt with at central level. He proposed that a delegation of students and teachers visit Maastricht soon to learn more about how to do PGO. Maastricht University is the leading university in the Netherlands when it comes to using problem-based learning, and has had good results with the system. Speelman sees this as the way to go about a ‘reintroduction of PGO in Wageningen’.

Speelman also agreed that teachers should keep track of exactly how much time the supervision of PGO work takes them. At present nearly sixty percent of lecturers indicate that they do not have enough time to be able to implement PGO well. In the long run this may lead to adjustments in the compensation that the chair groups receive for providing problem-based learning. / JH

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