A training course for teachers and other members of academic personnel on problem-based learning has come to an end. Participants have already updated their own teaching methods and seen a change in the level of students’ motivation.
Text Varpu Somersalo
In PBL, the role of a teacher is to be a mentor or a facilitator, rather than a lecturer. The focus shifts from teachers to students, which calls for both teachers and students to reshape their identities.
“I have always viewed the role of a teacher through a narrow lens”, notes Dr. Anna Indeche, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology, one of the participants of the training course. “The roles of both the teacher and the learner were my key takeaways on this course.”
PBL is not a one-size-fits-all model but rather an ideology of actively involving students in their own learning and close collaboration with real working life. Due to PBL’s potential in entrepreneurship education, AgriSCALE aims at reforming agro-entrepreneurship education by first introducing and then developing a localised PBL approach in each partner university.
“In the past, I had attended a competency-based learning training, and PBL felt like CBL taken a notch higher. I enjoyed the insights of both facilitators and the participants throughout the course”, Dr. Indeche continues.
“The training was an important experience for Continuing Professional Development of academic staff at Mulungushi University”, says Dr. Mitulo Silengo from Mulungushi University, Zambia. “It was also a very exciting pedagogical experience that challenged and deconstructed our traditionally held views of fostering student learning.”
The training course consisted of 9 weekly online workshops, covering competence-based education, facilitation of online learning and virtual PBL projects, among other pedagogical themes. The sessions were designed for equipping university management, teachers and course coordinators with knowledge and practical skills on how to design and implement PBL-based entrepreneurship courses and how to manage PBL-based academic programmes or courses through administrative support.
“The teaching materials were well-researched and the organisers were well prepared to present them to meet the diverse levels of participants expectations”, says Mr. Angwenyi Michael from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
The course was completed by 44 teachers in 4 Kenyan, 2 Zambian, and 1 Ugandan HEIs. In addition, more staff members gained important experiences, as most of the sessions were joined by 65–70 participants. The course was organised and led by Ms. Ulla-Maija Knuutti from Häme University of Applied Sciences, Finland, with contributions from Ms. Matleena Muhonen from Aalto University, Finland.
“We were supposed to have the course in Africa, but due to Covid we needed a completely new approach. We were lucky to have active and enthustiastic participants who made the whole course such an enjoyable experience”, Ms. Knuutti says.
Participants have already changed their own teaching based on the lessons learned in the workshops.
“I have now incorporated aspects of PBL in my teaching and the enthusiasm of my learners is heart-warming”, Dr. Indeche concludes.