28th Apr 2010 | 10:14 am | Filed under Uncategorized

Here my brief comments on the European ERASMUS euronet practise based learning Project after attending its 4th international meeting at Limerick University.

1. I feel that you have very strong but very different European partners representing different work oriented educational cultures. As I mentioned at the meeting, I am not sure about the exact target group (see this addressed below) for your final product of the project and as well the method for producing this final product. Is it going to be a web -based product or/and an academic paper or policy oriented ‘paper’ product? The advantages of the web is that you can treat the delivery of your product initially in summary fashion and then providing links for those who want to get into greater depth.

2. Because of the radical difference between the partners, I think it would be a mistake to try to come up with too generalised conclusions or recommendations. The heart of your product should be a well written presentation of each partner’s unique and culturally shaped project, and drawing lessons, under some of the following heading| :

– Rationale for the PBL project: What are the strategic curricular arguments for the project with a bit of history ? What evaluations have taken place?

– How the project was implemented: What and who inspired the PBL project ? What challenges/difficulties had to be overcome (university policy, curriculum design issues, financial demands, legitimacy issues such as Lara Bo is experiencing in Denmark)
– The curriculum and learning strategy underpinning the project – in continuity or not with national cultural traditions; imported theoretical models such as the Turkish case and also the Limerick model which as far as I know was inspired by an American university and imported to Limerick by the first President of the university, an Irishman who had worked for a lot of his career in the US.

– Methodologies and Tools used and Guidelines for universities, companies and students:

– The interviews of students and companies could be built into the above to illustrate the issues being dealt with.

Perhaps the above could also be presented in the form of a grid outlining the shape/stories of the different projects

3. Coming back to the issue of who is your main target group, it appears to me that the university policy makers have to be central. The main focus of the Erasmus programme is universities and the central argument for PBL is a better and more rounded education curriculum for university students. The main drivers for more and better PBL have to be on one hand the universities and professional associations like teacher association or engineering associations. Obviously not all universities are the same either as some are going to be more committed that others and the quality is also bound to vary and one of the goals of your PBL project is to persuade those universities who are thinking about introducing PBL or persuade those to persist who are thinking of decreasing their commitment to PBL. Having said the above, this does not mean that the needs of companies and students need not be addressed in terms of guidelines and tools etc

4. Perhaps at earlier meetings or presented in earlier papers, the arguments/justification for PBL, dealing with the intrinsic benefits of learning through ‘practice’ were outlined. The main line of argument for me is that many competences/practical knowledge skills can only be learnt through experiencing them/living them in a real life/practice environment. It is difficult to simulate practise within professions like coming-up medical doctors or teachers or engineers. This is the premise underlining the concept of ‘work-process knowledge’.
5. Countries with a more or less stronger apprenticeship traditions (such as on the job learning or the practical route to learn an non-academic profession) such as Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland are more or less convinced of the value of practice based learning in real work situations, but many countries argue that the emphasis should be based on academic technological education and training first, which they incorrectly argue in my view can be applied in practice contexts. PBL is the key to enabling students to ‘walk the talk’ and not just ‘talk the talk’. If you have not done so, I feel that your introductory section of your final product ‘document’ should be comprised of solid research based arguments for the distinctive benefits of the PBL learning tradition – apprenticeship learning, practise learning, problem based learning,, understanding importance of work-process knowledge, entering community of practise, forming professional identity etc.

I hope that the above reflections may be of some use to you. Comments are very much welcome.

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