Agony aunt

September 28, 2001

Q What are the advantages of throwing students in at the deep end with a problem to help them learn?

A We are thrown in at the deep end of life and work with problems to solve.

In higher education we are trying to prepare the students for life, work, the universe and everything - so why not run the courses true to life?

Do you arrive at work and get handed a set of questions to answer after a lecture from your supervisor? No, you arrive with a set of problems ("My share dealings don't balance") and have to work out the questions and, thus, the possible solutions. As I say to my students: "The truth is not out there". There is only a lot of information that needs interpreting and a hypothesis generated from that interpretation.

This applies to all fields of endeavour. If you know what you want the students to learn during your course (the dreaded learning objectives), you devise a problem that forces them to look at this and they learn by using the information in a relevant, constructive way.

For examples, see 'learning technologies' at

Paul Skett
Degree group coordinator Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences
University of Glasgow

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