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University Moves Forward on Teaching and Learning Initiative

Date: Oct. 23, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: General News, Currents News

At work, at home, at play, many of the lessons learned that we remember for a lifetime were what we learned through problem solving. An in-depth exploration of that concept, applied to the classroom, first took off on campus last year. That's when problem-based learning, nicknamed PBL, was supported by the provost as an initiative to enhance teaching and learning. University of Cincinnati faculty from both the West Campus and the East Campus will soon hear from one of the nation's leading experts on this pedagogical initiative.

George Watson, who helped launch a nationally renowned PBL initiative at the University of Delaware, will be the guest of honor at the University of Cincinnati Problem-Based Learning Institute Nov.1-3. The institute is the concept of the University of Cincinnati PBL team assembled under the provost's office last year. Team member Ellen Lynch, coordinator for the University College early childhood care and education program, says 25 UC faculty were selected to participate in the institute, based on an application process. Sessions will be held Thursday, Nov. 1 between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in Room 2109 French Hall; Nov. 2, 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. in the Daniels Hall lounge, 11th floor; and Nov. 3, 9 a.m.-noon in Room 6132 Edwards One.

Watson, associate dean for the College of Applied Sciences at the University of Delaware, will hold presentations featuring international models of problem-based learning, as well as how UC faculty can develop curriculum around PBL. He'll also share with faculty the range of resources available to them as they develop their courses.

"The University of Delaware is a Research I institution, and it's considered to be the mecca of problem-based learning in the United States," says Lynch. "Every year, the University of Delaware offers seminars on the various aspects of PBL." Lynch was one of five faculty on the UC PBL committee that traveled to Delaware for hands-on PBL workshops last summer. Lynch says that trip, as well as the upcoming November institute at UC, are supported by a faculty development grant. Furthermore, Lynch says several colleges across campus have contributed additional funding to fuel the initiative.

Among the members of the University of Cincinnati PBL team that will present at the seminar are Saad J. Ghosn, professor of pathology and medicine. Ghosn launched UC's first experience with PBL at the College of Medicine in 1990. The initiative first took off in medical schools, spread to graduate education and is now coming to undergraduate education programs across the United States. Ghosn will present a session on writing effective problem-based materials, one of the most challenging aspects for faculty adopting PBL.

Ellen Lynch is part of a UC panel presenting on how to support the PBL process with technology. "This fall, I'm teaching my child development class completely in PBL," she says. Lynch presents students with the problem and then students work independently or in groups, seeking a solution by conducting their own research. In effect, Lynch says they take control and responsibility of their learning, as she guides students along this pathway. "They'll continue to come to class to meet, but they can also do their research during class. We'll interject this with some mini-lectures and other assorted elements that may pull things together or launch them into a new topic."

Ellen Cook, professor in the UC counseling program, College of Education, has been working closely with Lynch to organize the institute. Faculty for the counseling program hosted PBL workshops last year and launched an effort to incorporate PBL into their own curriculum with assistance from a $13,000 faculty development grant. Cook was one of the counseling faculty members who developed seminars that launched the "problem" part of the initiative. "All of our doctoral students have a year-long content-based seminar and then they go into a year of PBL. So basically, PBL is part of the required doctoral curriculum for our students." Cook started teaching the first section of the curriculum this quarter.

Faculty enrolled in the institute will have a PBL assignment of their own. Each submitted a proposal to join the three-day institute. When they wrap up Saturday, Nov. 3, they'll deliver a short presentation on how they're incorporating PBL in their own classroom.

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