Just as I was ending my medical degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in Joburg, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) was all the rage throughout the medical education establishment. It led to the establishment of the Graduate-Entry Medical Programme at Wits, which was modeled on the same program at the University of Sydney.I just wanted to give a brief overview as to what PBL is.
first person is a young lady who is a patient of mine who is currently in Grade 12. She does exceptionally well at school and is applying to study medicine next year, despite my warnings! Recently she came to see me for a Medical Certificate as part of her application to study at the University of Cape Town Medical School, and we were chatting about studying and about Schooled for Life. I was telling her about teachers at school force pupils to learn their subjects in very specific ways. And so I asked her how she did so well academically at school (because I had noticed the vast number of academic - as well as sports and extra-mural activity - badges on her blazer). Before I could even finish asking the question, she said "I ignored the teachers and studied everything my own way." I was so taken aback. Here was a bright young woman who had found out one of the keys to learning that has just been discovered in the latest research, and is one of my S4L Principles. The second person is one of the best orthopedic surgeonsI know, Dr Richard Roloff (his rooms are in Hillcrest Private Hospital, outside of Durban, South Africa). This last Thursday morning I was assisting him in theater with a knee replacement, and during the procedure I asked him he studied at university. He laughed and said that he crammed the night before and seemed to brush off the question a little bit. I know him, and that was his way of being quite modest about something, so I persisted a bit. So he said that he found that if he studied for weeks or months before the exam, he would forget the information and get so stressed that he would fail badly. But, he found that the day and night before an exam, he was so relaxed and was experiencing so little stress that he could study literally five to ten times more than anyone else could in the same period of time. His Amygdala was perfectly calm and ease. He walked around and read aloud. The information went from his senses through to his Amygdala. Now, because they were so calm, the information literally flew through them deep into his long-term memory. So, how can you take these two peoples' stories and start using the information gleaned from them right now. Let me give you three ways you can not just think outside the box, but break the box down altogether. 1. Ignore teachers and lecturers when they tell you there is only one way to learn their subject. But I must add a disclaimer here. Sometimes, sometimes, there is only one way to learn a particular subject, but these are very few are far between. Who says you can't use Rap music to learn Chemistry formulas? Who says you can't draw crazy cartoons for Mathematics? Who says you can't write new words to your favorite songs to learn soil strata? 2. Start linking the things you love doing with subjects you don't like. I love history. So, when I was studying and cramming right towards the end of fifth year, I invaded Russia as you can read here. If you love modern dance, make up a quick dance routine that links the information you are learning with that routine. If you love drawing cartoons, convert each of your main points into a crazy image and turn them into a crazy cartoon. 3. Try write your main points with your other hand.If you are right-handed, try writing your learning material left-handed, and vice-versa. You will be amazed at how much you will remember, because you will laugh at yourself so much during the whole process! So, instead of that sinking feeling in your studying, your box will start breaking. Enjoy the feeling! Let me know your stories of how you have broken the box below.....One hundred years ago on the 15th of April, RMS Titanic sank. By far the majority of those who died were men. The strictly held moral norm in those days was the maxim "Women and children first". But this type of absolutism has disappeared from our current culture. But there are a few absolutisms that do remain today. The one absolute in current schooling is that high school students must learn each subject in specific ways that each teacher ordains. You don't really have a choice. Each teacher tells their students how they must learn their particular subject. But, I'm going to give you some radical advice. CHOOSE THE SHIP! But I promise, in your case, you won't sink. I'm going to show you two examples of people who didn't follow what was expected of them and who have done amazingly well in their academic lives. They are each on the two extremes on the age scale of studying. The first is in Grade 12, the other is in his late forties and a practicing orthopedic surgeon. Both of them didn't just think about doing things differently, they did things differently and blasted their way through to academic success. The
I want to discuss four ways that you can get the most out of the lectures that you attend. By following these simple steps, you can maximize the effectiveness of your attendance of lectures. never enough. Use the lecture handouts as the skeleton upon which you build your chunks of knowledge. 3. Listen for points that are repeated. When the lecturer repeats a point more, take special note. When they say it more than twice, take very careful note of it. 4. Listen for points that are illustrated. If your lecturer gives you an illustration to try and explain a concept, pay very close attention as well. This is also usually an important point to know.1. Read beforehand. This is perhaps one of the most crucial steps you should do. If your course-load is not too intensive, then I suggest that you read the relevant chapter/s a couple of days before the lecture, and jot down any questions that you have. Then, read the chapter and questions again the night before the lecture. If your course-load is heavy (think Medical School!), then read the chapter the night before with a red, green and blue highlighter nearby. Red highlights things you don't understand. Blue highlights things you already knew. Green highlights the main points that you would use as topics for essay questions. 2. The Handouts are never enough.No mater what the lecturer says toyou, I promise you that the lecture handouts are
- So who are these lecturers anyway? Seven ways to get to know them better (schooledforlife.com)
- Four-Minute Lecture: Professor Jensen (thekenyonthrill.com)
If you thought your high school teachers were weird, just wait until you meet your college lecturers! I remember when my wife was in first year of her Occupational Therapy degree, I used to sit with her sometimes during her lectures. I remember her Biology 101 lecturer. He reminded us of a tortoise. And even though he used a microphone, most of the time we couldn't hear what he was saying. When they asked him to adjust the microphone, he would hold it up to his face and say loudly "Can you hear me?". Then he would let it drop and he would carry on mumbling just as before. He became The Tortoise. I had a eccentric Anatomy lecture Dr Daly. He was very good, and his antics in the lecture room were hilarious. Sometimes he would jump onto the front desk and try and make himself into the shape of the particular cell or receptor we were studying.So, how do you get to know your lecturers better in order to improve your grades? Here are seven that I found useful.
- Read their online bios. Find out what their field of expertise is. Sometimes you will get a lecturer that will be taking classes in one topic because they have to, but their real area of interest is elsewhere. This will help you to get extra help from other sources if the lecturer is not willing to get to know you and help you.
- Make an appointment to see them one-to-one early. This serves a number of purposes. It shows them that you are eager and keen to learn. It also establishes a professional relationship that may last long after you finish university. You get to know what they want and what they don't want.
- Ask them lots of questions. These are the questions that I would ask them : What is it that you want me to learn most in your course? What type of tests do you set? Do you expect a certain type of answer? Is your course knowledge-intensive? Is it application-driven? Is it calculation-driven? Is it regurgitation-expectant? Is it hands-on? Is it deductive/analytical-intensive? Is it creative-driven? Is it in-the-box or out-the-box? Is it stepping-stone material?
- Don't try to be too clever with them. They have seen hundreds, even thousands of students, and they can see the arrogant know-it-alls straight away. Don't put across an impression of someone who isn't really you. Respect them. They have way more experience than you. And you can learn a lot from them.
- Follow up your tests/assignments. After a test or assignment, follow up with them to find out what was good about it, what was bad about it. Ask them how you can improve. And then actually apply what they tell you!
- Always be respectful towards them and be honest with them. If you establish yourself as untrustworthy early on in your university/college pathway, it will stay with you all the way through. If you consistently miss pracs and other types of tutorials, you will develop a reputation as a loafer. This will haunt you all the way through your years in college. Respect your lecturers, be honest with them.
- Seek other help. Sometimes lecturers are not helpful at all, and when that is the case, then find senior students or other lecturers who will be able to help you through the year.
- Ask them about a mentoring program. I remember when I was struggling with some of the concepts in Internal Medicine, the Dean of Students assigned to me a senior medical student who met with me once or twice a week, helping me with concepts and practical advice.