Proposal abstract: Case-based learning in undergraduate physiotherapy education

Abstract for a project I submitted earlier this week for ethics clearance. During 2012 – 2014 we converted one of our modules that runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year levels from a lecture-based format to a case-based learning format. We are now hoping to have a closer look at whether or not the CBL approach led to any changes in teaching and learning behaviours in staff and students.

Case-based learning (CBL) is a teaching method that makes use of clinical narratives to create an authentic learning activity in which students navigate their way through complex patient scenarios. The use of CBL in a health professions undergraduate curriculum attempts to convey a multidimensional representation of the context, participants and reality of a clinical situation, allowing students to explore these concepts in the classroom. While the implementation of CBL has a sound theoretical basis, as well as a strong evidence base for use in health professions education, there are challenges in its effective use that are not easily resolved. However, if it can be shown that the approach leads to changes in teaching and learning practice, which enhance student learning, providing additional resources to resolve the challenges can be more strongly justified. This project therefore aims to determine staff members’ and students’ perceptions of CBL as a teaching method, and to find out how it influenced their teaching and learning behaviours.

This study will make use of a mixed method research design in which the experiences and perceptions of student and staff members are used to determine whether or not there was a change in their teaching and learning practice. Qualitative and quantitative data will be gathered using a survey of all students in the population, focus group discussions of students and in-depth interviews of all staff in the department. The survey will determine if the design of the CBL approach led to a change in what the students did. The focus group discussions will gather data on the nature of the changes and the underlying rationale for those changes. The interviews with lecturers will be conducted in order to delve more deeply into whether or not lecturers’ teaching behaviours changed, and again, to explore the underlying rationale of those changes.

The survey will make use of a self-developed questionnaire that will gather quantitative data using Likert scales and other closed-ended questions. The survey will be sent to all 3rd and 4th year students in the 2015 academic year. The same students will be invited to participate in the focus groups, and the researchers will make use of purposive sampling to allocate volunteers into two focus groups in each year level. All lecturers in the department (n=10) will be invited to participate in the in-depth interviews, including those who were not directly involved in the implementation of CBL. In addition, we will also invite ex-staff members who were involved in the process, as well as postgraduate students who assisted with student facilitation.

Qualitative data will be gathered during the focus groups and interviews. This data will be interpreted via the theoretical frameworks used in the design of the CBL cases. The focus group discussions and interviews will be conducted in English and recorded using a digital audio recorder. The audio files will be sent for verbatim transcription and the anonymised, transcribed documents will then be sent to participants for verification. The transcripts will be analysed thematically, coding the data into categories of emerging themes. Trustworthiness of the analysis will be determined through member checking and peer debriefing and participants will be given the opportunity to comment on whether or not the data was interpreted according to what they meant. The transcribed verbatim draft will be given to colleagues who were not involved in the study for comment.

I enjoyed reading (September)

How online learning is going to affect classroom design (Tony Bates)

The important point here is that investment in new or adapted physical classroom space should be driven by decisions to change pedagogy/teaching methods. This will mean bringing together academics, IT support staff, instructional designers and staff from facilities, as well as architects and furniture suppliers.

Second, I strongly believe in the statement that we shape our environments, and our environments shape us. Providing instructors with a flexible, well-designed learning environment is likely to encourage major changes in their teaching; stuffing them into rectangular boxes with rows of desks will do the opposite.

What is clear is that institutions now need to do some some hard thinking about online learning, its likely impact on campus teaching, and above all what kind of campus experience we want students to have when they can do much of their studying online. It is this thinking that should shape their investment in desks and chairs.

Education is broken, somebody should do something” (David Kernohan)

Of course, the process (rather than the practice) of education is what drives the MOOC world. Writers without a critical perspective on both education and technology can be lulled into a simple skeumorphic model of replicated offline models re-established online. You can see large classes witnessing lectures by “rock star professors”, simple quizzes to reflect understanding, discussion groups, assignments and required reading. The process ensures that all of this is measured, monitored and recorded – both (somehow) to accurately gauge student achievement and to refine the process.

 

Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking (Grant Wiggins)

As teachers we understandably believe that it is the ‘teaching’ that causes learning. But this is too egocentric a formulation. As I said in my previous post, the learner’s attempts to learn causes all learning. The teaching is a stimulus; the attempted learning (or lack of it) is the response. No matter what the teacher says or does, the learner has to engage with and process the ‘teaching’ if learning is to happen.

Design Thinking, postscript: the importance of the teacher (Grant Wiggins)

In my last post – widely viewed and commented on in various places – I proposed that it was a bit egocentric to think of education in terms of the teacher and the teaching since the teacher is only one element in the design. Many commenters protested that while this may be true overall, they were personally inspired and launched into a career in education by virtue of a ‘passionate’ and ‘wonderful’ teacher. Surely that’s the most important part of the equation, they argued.

I responded that to me this was a form of confirmation bias. Sure, many of us who went into teaching were moved to do so by having had inspiring teachers. But that’s a pretty small and unrepresentative sample, prone to such a bias. What about non-teachers? What about  the average student’s school experience, the people who don’t go into teaching?

Fortunately, I altered our student survey two years ago to get at this very issue. Our data are clear: in a survey of over 1300 middle and high school students, the teacher is the least important factor in their liking and disliking of a subject:

A simple move to avoid ‘coverage’ and make time for more learning (Grant Wiggins)

We have all said it and we have all heard it: there’s just no time to slow down and [fill in the blank], I have so much to cover…

This, despite the fact that we all know, at some level, that it is not the ‘teaching’ that causes learning but the attempts by the learner to learn that causes learning; and that the 1st attempt may not be successful. The importance of feedback and its use, the idea that a key concept or skill is rarely learned at the first go, the need to ferret out and address misconceptions – all of what we know about optimal learning is far too easily trumped by a syllabus, course framework, or unit plan that says: we have to move on to the next topic!

Learners as producers (Steve Wheeler)

For the longest time teachers and lecturers have held the monopoly on the production of academic content. They create lesson plans, produce resources, devise marking schemes and search around for activities and games they can repurpose to use in teaching sessions. Although the production of content has been the preserve of the teacher and the academic since the formalisation of education, increasingly, we also see learners creating their own content. They have the tools, they own the technology, and they have the confidence to use them, not only informally, but increasingly in formal learning contexts. Many are prolific and proficient in producing blogs, podcasts, videos and photos for sharing on the web. They can do it all using the simple smartphone in their pocket. This user generated content trend is apparent not only in universities and colleges but also in the compulsory education sectors.

Reinventing School From the Ground Up For Inquiry Learning (Thom Markham)

For all of us, as citizens and educators, in this country and others, it’s way past time for school “improvement,” and high time to invent fresh organizations designed for inquiry— the ecosystem for inquiry, in which all elements of the environment act holistically to grow, nurture, and sustain the qualities of heart and mind necessary for students and teachers to learn to ask good questions instead of finding right answers. That’s a very high bar, but that’s the ultimate goal of 21st century learning.

How to develop this ecosystem? Only two qualities are required: Imagination and bravery.

I enjoyed reading (July)

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Image from MIT-Library’s Flickr stream.

In Connectivism, No One Can Hear You Scream: a Guide to Understanding the MOOC Novice (Keith Brennan): An interesting critique of Connectivist thinking…

What we think about who we are, and where we are, tells us how much we are likely to learn. This is key to the gap in Connectivist thought. Central to that gap, at the core of what I think Connectivism might be missing is this idea: Motivation is the engine of effort, and the sense of self is the ticking heart of motivation. Our sense of self is formed by the experiences we have, the environments we have them in, and the people who design those environments. And that negotiated sense of self can engineer the success or failure of the educational experience.

…and the response from Stephen Downes (Connectivism and the Primal Scream).

The key is to stop thinking of these as content to be mastered, and to start thinking them as skills to be practiced. There isn’t some point of success or failure in any of these, you just do them – like talking to your friends, like walking from class to class – until it becomes second nature.

Indeed, so long as you think of knowledge and learning as something to be acquired and measured and tested – instead of practiced and lived and experienced – you will be dissatisfied with connectivist learning. And – for that matter – there’s probably a limit to how far you can advance in traditional education as well, because (to my experience) everybody who achieves a high degree of expertise in a field has advanced well beyond the idea that it’s just information and skills and things to learn.

edcan-v50-n3-dunleavy_g_2Flow: A measure of student engagement (Jackie Gerstein):

Students differ in their aspirations, interests, and aptitudes. But it is worth considering how distinct pathways, trajectories, or streams that too often limit opportunities for students could become permeable spaces for learning. What if the curriculum anchors their learning, but ceases to anchor the students themselves because its aim is the development of important competencies through diverse learning experiences that value and extend young peoples’ knowledge, interests, and capacities across all curriculum domains?

No excuse for giving boring presentations (Garr Reynolds):

They are not sophisticated, erudite scientists speaking above our intellectual capability; they are arrogant, thoughtless individuals who insult our very presence by the lack of concern for our desire to benefit from a meeting which we choose to attend.Failure to spend the

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time wisely and well, failure to educate, entertain, elucidate, enlighten, and most important of all, failure to maintain attention and interest should be punishable by stoning. There is no excuse for tedium.

The challenges and realities of Inquiry-based learning (Thom Markum):

As education continues the march toward a student-driven, project-oriented approach that values intelligent solutions to open-ended problems, it won’t be sufficient to focus on the wonderful discoveries and authentic work that result from an inquiry-based system. Instead, a far more difficult issue will come to the fore: How will we know if inquiry-based learning is successful, and what non-standardized measures of achievement, like better attitude, apply?

transhumanNanoethics and human enhancement (Patrick Lin & Fritz Allhof):

Human enhancement—our ability to use technology to enhance our bodies and minds, as opposed to its application for therapeutic purposes—is a critical issue facing nanotechnology. It will be involved in some of the near-term applications of nanotechnology, with such research labs as MIT’s Institute for Soldier Technologies working on exoskeletons and other innovations that increase human strength and capabilities. It is also a core issue related to far-term predictions in nanotechnology, such as longevity, nanomedicine, artificial intelligence and other issues.

The implications of nanotechnology as related to human enhancement are perhaps some of the most personal and therefore passionate issues in the emerging field of nanoethics, forcing us to rethink what it means to be human or, essentially, our own identity. For some, nanotechnology holds the promise of making us superhuman; for others, it offers a darker path toward becoming Frankenstein’s monster.