With Period 1 under my belt and now that Period 2 is well under way, I can say that I’ve officially ‘gotten the hang’ of the PBL system. I was warned before I got to Maastricht that the style of teaching here would be something that I had to get accustomed to and that it wasn’t going to be an easy transition. I am confident when I say that, coming from a ‘traditional’ American university, there definitely was a small learning curve, but the outcome has been worth it. Here are a few of my thoughts on why the PBL system has enhanced my education and overall experience here at Maastricht University.
With the periods being only 7 weeks long, the idea of retaining such an abundant amount of information can be daunting. The PBL system emphasizes long term retention of knowledge by reinforcing subject matters, encouraging discussion, and having students try to answer their own questions. I left my courses feeling fulfilled and confident that I was ready for the upcoming exams.
Both of my Period 1 classes were heavily discussion based. Both required student facilitations, discussion leaders, and a few lectures. The diversity of how the subject matter is presented lends to a better understanding of the material. No two students learn in the same way, so presenting material in unique, diverse, and constructive ways will benefit the class as a whole, and individual students as well.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after Period 1 it is how to engage with the class. I was quite timid and a little bit apprehensive to share my ideas when Period 1 started. Back at home, students must raise their hands and have the teacher call on them to speak. So you can imagine my confusion when class started and everyone was talking across the classroom, no rules or process in place. But, that’s something I quickly got over because otherwise I was going to have to say goodbye to my participation grade. You learn quickly that it is essential for you to participate not only for your own grade, but to move the class discussion. Most of the time, students are facilitating the classes and it would be impossible to carry on a discussion without the involvement of the rest of the class. Not only that, but you leave class satisfied with yourself and confident that you are learning something.
Group work is the backbone of the PBL system, at least in my opinion. And while some people have mixed feelings about group work, I enjoy it and find it to be a better way to understand certain types of subject matters. During my Period 1 classes, I had about 5 different group projects and I was usually the only ‘international’ student in my groups. Working with full-time, often German, Dutch, or Belgian students was eye opening and helped me understand how beneficial group work can be. Working together with students from all over the world can lead to quality discussion, diverse sets of ideas, and quality content when everyone contributes their best work.
After two month of working with this ‘new to me’ teaching style, I can understand why people ‘warned’ me about it but also why so many students and teachers praise the practice. I’m excited for a new period and new chances to collaborate and learn from the diverse set of students around me!
What are your thoughts on the PBL System?