education health PhD teaching workshop

Developing cases for Problem-Based Learning

Workshop on the development of case-based studies

Facilitators: Dr. Ethel Stanley, Dr. Margaret Waterman

Part of my PhD will be to look at alternative approaches to clinical education, including uses cases in problem-based learning (PBL). My specific interest is in the use of emerging technology to design and teach with those cases in small groups. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the first half of the workshop, and didn’t get the opportunity to develop my own case.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

Biology is an important topic for everyone to understand, as it impacts on every major health-related decision that has to be made, so we used biological case studies as working examples

Students must be able to ask good questions in order to solve their own problems in preparation for the types of adult learning (androgogy, as opposed to pedagogy) behaviour we’d expect to see in practice. Memorising content isn’t a good strategy for learning how to solve problems like “Why is this patient walking in a way that is different from “normal”?”

A lecture is a good method to deliver content, but is a poor method for active learning around problem solving

Case-based learning (CBL) is a good way to explore realistically complex situations

Begin by introducing a problem with no expectation that the student can solve the problem. Use that as a springboard to explore their ability to develop good research questions

CBL requires the confidence from teachers to give up control, but giving up control is the only way to get students to actively construct their own learning experiences by asking questions, gathering information, testing hypotheses, and convince others of their findings

Structure for working through a basic case

  • Define the boundaries / outline of the case
  • What do you already know (group knowledge, as well as information that can be obtained from the case study) / what do you still need to know (this can be used as a basis for a short lecture) in order to answer the question
  • Choose the most important questions to explore
  • Get into small groups and discuss / share information, knowledge, assumptions
  • Go away and try to answer the questions that were generated
  • Come back and only then get the teachers objectives
  • Then go away again and refine the questions and information collected

Why use cases?

  • To initiate investigations
  • To use new technologies and resources to solve problems
  • Develop local and international / global perspectives
  • Emphasise the value of interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches
  • Structure student assessment through student products
  • Support diverse objectives within a shared workspace (would be interesting to investigate the possibility of using a wiki to develop and build on cases using this approach)

Used Gapminder to demonstrate alternative ways of visually representing data while working through a case study. See Hans Rosling (founder of Gapminder) on the Joy of Statistics, and his TED presentations.

The teacher can set the context of the class, and the depth to which students should explore questions, by using an appropriate framework / case. Can also decide which questions are prioritised, and which ones can be answered via different methods e.g. lecture, essay, assignment, etc.

Highlight the fact that, as the teacher, you don’t have all the answers and that you’re a co-learner in the classroom. Students should understand that the teacher isn’t a font of all knowledge on the subject, and that it’s acceptable and appropriate for the teacher to have to also do research on the topic