I am feeling a set of contrasting thoughts as I write this. Recently a UBC medical student wrote a critique of the UBC PBL tutorials, that was published in Canadian Medical Association Journal. I respect the student’s opinion, and no doubt it reflects a perspective that we (as professors and facilitators) don’t experience.
This week however I am having an extraordinary experience running PBL tutorials here in Nepal. The Nepali students are embracing PBL with a gusto that is quite amazing. They attack “brainstorming” on the first day. Many ideas are put up on the board, and then later followed up or abandoned. Opinions are challenged (respectfully) and trains of thought are followed to logical conclusions. During the second tutorial of the week (this would be the equivalent to our Wednesday tutorials) the Nepali students in my PBL group attacked the learning issues they had researched after the first tutorial. Discussion was lively and thorough. While I have had this experience with groups at UBC, one difference here was that the Nepali students seemed to be in no hurry to rush on to getting new material on the case. At UBC students seem at times to be more focused on the clinical scenario and rush through the basic science learning issues. Students in Nepal PBL are just finished high school and come in with comparatively little basic science, and that may account for some of the difference in focus between UBC and here. Regardless of the reason, being surrounded by this much enthusiasm for learning and appreciation for the opportunity to learn is a heady experience for this professor!