Stay the Course!


It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. This time last week, I was arriving in Orlando for a medical education conference. The occasion offered the opportunity to switch into cruise control and coast to the end of this course. However, I thought better of it and instead tried to “stay the course”. That course being, continuing to learn new ideas and concepts, read, reflect and apply previous, as well as new knowledge to the task at hand. I must admit, the decision to “stay the course” has been both rewarding and gratifying.

This week I continued to research this concept of the “POGIL” for our ADLT 671 design project. Dr. Carter shared an excellent article by Eberlein, Kampmeier, Minderhout Moog, Platt, Varma-Nelson and White, (2008) on the distinction between problem-based learning (PBL), process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) and peer led team learning (PLTL). Though all approaches have similarities, the following distinctions apply:

1) PBL is based on the premise that basic science concepts are understood and remembered longer went learned, discussed and applied to practical, real-world contexts. The distinctive feature of this approach is that problems come first and introduce content, rather than problems following a presentation of facts and concepts. Students learn by group-directed exploration (generally 8 – 10 students), as they become self-directed learners.

2) POGIL has students work in self-managed teams during class on specially designed materials. The activities incorporate carefully crafted questions for guided inquiry that generally follow a three phase learning cycle including exploration, concept invention and application. The instructor serves as a “facilitator”, assisting team members in the learning process.

3) Contrary to PBL and POGIL, PLTL does not replace lecture time in the classroom, but rather supplements the more traditional approach to delivering information. The peer-led groups meet weekly outside lecture and instruction time and work on problems that are carefully structured to help the students build conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills. Peer leaders are recruited and trained as workshop leaders who guide the efforts of a group of 6 – 8 students.

Undoubtedly, it has been my good fortune to have the opportunity to work on a project which has direct relevance to graduate medical education. This has certainly served to motivate me in staying the course. Nevertheless, there are two attitudes which I found most helpful to apply as I attempted to “stay the course”. They were humility and discipline.

Even though we have learned much in the technology track, there was much more to learn in applying these principles to an instructional design project involving teaching adult learning theory to medical educators. Accepting that I still had a lot to learn about these concepts was the first step necessary in effectively approaching this learning experience. Additionally, there were special challenges in designing content which would incorporate the principles of each of the five learning theories covered in the course without being either too abstract or too overt. Thus, some of our challenges related less to incorporating digital media into the course and more to content creation. The willingness to be stretched through this learning exercise was essential in being successful with this particular project.

The next big challenge was to maintain a constant discipline of reading, reflection, exploration and application. I found early on in this experience that it required a good deal more discipline and time than I had initially anticipated. It is one thing to exercise discipline for a brief stretch of time and quite another to maintain that discipline over the long haul. One particularly long day required working into the night to attempt to revise sections of the content we had previously generated in an attempt to improve our finished product. Discipline can make the difference between merely finishing and finishing well.

I have never sailed a boat, but I have the feeling that in order to do it safely and appropriately, one must have a certain amount of humility and discipline. Humility, hopefully, would help keep one from assuming that they knew all there is to know about weather patterns; their impact upon a body of water and how all that would affect decisions in navigating a sailboat. I would also think that the discipline to stay alert, focused and on top of any changes that would affect the sailboat’s ability to remain afloat would be absolutely necessary, as well. So, although ADLT 642 and sailing may be two vastly different experiences, they both perhaps benefit from the practice of humility and discipline.

As I come to the end of this experience, I want to acknowledge my classmates who have journeyed through this technology track with me. I have benefitted so much from your talents, expertise, thoughts and ideas and want to wish you all great success as you take the next step in your adult learning endeavors. May each of you find within what is needed to “stay the course”.

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One Response to Stay the Course!

  1. jkincann says:

    I agree with your analogy and the need for both discipline and humility. It seems no matter how much you study, you can always learn more. The world changes so you need to learn again for the new context. Persistence helps, which you seem to have enough of to continue! Keep up the good work.

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