Science - November 25, 2004

Students on PGO

University Rector Professor Bert Speelman recently announced that he intends to radically change the problem-based learning (PGO) here, citing how they do things at the University of Maastricht as the example. Maastricht has developed a systematic method for dealing with problems in group work, known as the ‘seven-step plan’. Teaching staff say they understand the theory, but need time and money to be able to introduce problem-based learning satisfactorily. Wb asked a number of students what they think of PGO in Wageningen. Is it a disaster, or really not that bad after all?

Stephan Verduin, fourth-year Biology student, has already done seven PGO subjects:
‘My experiences are not that positive. It’s always questionable what you have to do in a PGO subject, and it’s often a bit far-fetched what we end up doing. You have to look up all the learning material yourself, but they don’t tell you where you can find the information. I prefer lectures myself. If you hear information, it’s often clear after one time. Supervisors are not always that interested either. If you have a subject with two senior lecturers and eight groups then they just get another six people from the chair group to help, but they don’t always know what they are supposed to be doing. I don’t mind working independently, but sometimes you’re just left to your fate. On the other hand, sometimes too much is done for us, and we get spoon-fed. I think everyone should first take a course in which they learn what PGO is about and what it involves.’

Armin Eini, MSc student studying Plant Biotechnology:
‘I haven’t much experience of PGO; this is only my second PGO assignment. But this one is going much better than the first as the exam and the report are separate, which means we can concentrate on writing the report. There is a separate reader for the exam. In the first PGO course these were combined, and it was useless. Some subjects were very boring, and I’ve heard that other groups have had the same complaint. For teaching it’s no good at all, but for learning about how to do research it’s very useful.’

Sander van Dijk, third-year Biotechnology student:
‘Often it’s a small minority that does the work for the whole group if we have a project. At the moment four of us are busy, but it’s a group of eight. I haven’t a clue where the rest are, but we’ve made it clear: the deadline is Thursday.’ / JH

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