EDUCATION: LEARNING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS

Choosing a course can be confusing. First, there are more study available study options, and second, education has changed, and student are not sure which course will meet their present and future study needs. This article discusses some trends in education, including the trend towards more flexible problem-based learning.

Self Sufficiency is complex; with thousands of different plant and animal varieties to consider growing;  and hundreds of other choices to make about what technologies or products to use or reject. Every choice brings with it possible problems; and every problem may require different and varied responses from place to place and time to time. For the new student; this can easily be overwhelming, and seem almost impossible to grasp. The good news is that there are systems that underpin most technologies and principles that underpin things like horticulture and animal husbandry. If you can grasp the foundations that underpin self sufficient living; you then have a foundation that makes further learning and dealing with problems far easier later on.

Some Observations about Current Mainstream Education

- Teachers are often overworked and under-resourced, with less opportunity for student interaction.

- Education has become top heavy, bureaucratic and seems to be continually being criticised and changed.

- In Australia (and some other countries), Competency Based Training has largely excluded other forms of vocational education from official approval. Its emphasis on assessment rather than teaching concerns many teachers, students, and employers.

- Education is becoming internationalized, with courses exported and imported across national boundaries.

- Technology has greatly increased study options to include Internet, CD, video, and interactive computer programs.

- The needs of a complex and changing workplace are not met by one-size-fits-all education. Though it costs less to run, it does not create the diversity of skills or creativity needed for graduates to distinguish themselves and contribute to the growth of their industry.

In this climate, government ‘accreditation’ simply does not have the same value it once did. While ‘accredited’ training is required in some areas to ensure uniform practices and minimum standards, many employers consider it much more important that employees:

- Have the right attitude and work ethic

- Can use common sense

- Work efficiently and accurately

- Solve problems

Problem Based Learning – A New Way 

Increasingly, creative educators are using problem-based learning (PBL). This different approach has been shown to produce graduates who are more successful in their fields of work. PBL is based on an understanding of how people really learn.

How we Learn

- Things that were learnt first are retained best long term.

- Things learnt last are retained best short term.

- Things that your are exposed to repeatedly and in different ways are more likely to be recalled when needed even years later.

- Interaction in the learning process makes learning stick.

- Things are remembered when the student can see relevance.

Example: If you read about a grass variety, discuss its use with a green keeper, write a report on it, then collect the seed and grow it, you will probably always remember it. If you spend just as long studying it, but only absorb the information by sitting through a long lecture, you may well forget most of what was studied a year later.

What is PBL?

PBL is an unconventional and innovative approach to learning where learning does not take place through lectures or studying notes or texts, but by solving a given problem. The student works through a series of well defined projects which have been cleverly designed to direct their discovery of the same factual information which they would normally encounter in a classroom or text book.

PBL was developed and used in medical degrees in the USA in the 1980’s. It was adapted to horticulture training by the University of Vancouver in the 90’s, and more recently, was adopted by ACS (Australian Correspondence Schools). Research has shown graduates from courses with PBL components are far more successful in their careers than graduates from other courses.

How is PBL Different to Just Research?

A research project requires students to collect information from various sources. The process if not controlled, and emphasis is on the information being gathered. In a PBL project, learning is carefully directed. Precise and strict guidelines control not only what the student does, but how much they do at every stage of the project, and sets strict limits on time, structure and word count. Students who do not adhere to these are penalized.

A PBL project is carefully delineated to develop the student’s ability to adapt to external requirements (such as specific time and word parameters) while gathering the information require to solve the given problem. Students learn to: problem solve; to be aware of their productivity and efficiency; to pay close attention to instructions; and to be focused – all of which makes them more valuable employees.  

If you are interested in this concept of education, our courses are probably going to suit you!

Click here to check out the full range of ACS Courses!