Re: PBL at UBC

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 53, No. 8, October 2011, Page 393 Letters

I am not about to step up to defend problem-based learning (PBL). I do, however, want to make one simple point. If you do not put effort into PBL, it will not work for you and your group. I have had PBL groups with classmates who drum up many of the points that Andrew Provan makes in his article [BCMJ 2011;53;132-133]. 

These students often did not engage in the process—they did not like going to the board, they tended to do a sloppy job with learning issues (if at all), and they often rolled their eyes when we would discuss social aspects of our cases. Moreover, instead of doing their own research they constantly asked, “What does the tutor guide say about it?” All of this often turned PBL into a joke where everybody “played the game.”

Unfortunately, as I progressed through the two years of medical school, I encountered more and more groups that were filled with these PBL haters. And I do not think this has anything to do with PBL burnout. Our first-year class, who had not had time to develop such a condition, recently formed a PBL-inquisition squad, sending out surveys to the first- and second-year students with a sole aim of proving that PBL is universally disliked. Apparently, some students have even coined a new name for PBL—they call it PB-hell. 

This culture of PBL bashing has allowed students who find interacting with others difficult (and who would likely benefit the most from the team approach of PBL) to throw their arms up in the air and yell, “PBL is stupid, it clearly doesn’t work, hence I don’t have to work at it.” This is a lazy excuse! PBL is a frustrating process, but if something is frustrating it does not mean that it does not work. Put a little faith and a little elbow grease into PBL. If it still does not work, then engage with the faculty and try to change things in an unbiased way. 

Ranting in a public space such as the BCMJ accomplishes little except making our school look bad and giving incoming students an option for a lazy excuse not to work on their PBL learning issues.
—Alex Butskiy
UBC Medical Class of 2013

Alex Butskiy, BSc,. Re: PBL at UBC. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 8, October, 2011, Page(s) 393 - Letters.

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