McMaster University

McMaster University

Nursing faculty from Denmark on campus to learn more about PBL at McMaster

By Amanda Boundris

Charlotte Noesgaard, Jette Marcussen and Britta Bang Larsen
Charlotte Noesgaard, associate professor of nursing at McMaster, centre, with assistant professors Jette Marcussen, left, and Britta Bang Larsen, from the School of Nursing at University College Lillebaelt in Odense, Denmark.

Two faculty members from University College Lillebaelt in Denmark visited McMaster University during the last week of May to learn more about how problem-based learning (PBL) is utilized in the School of Nursing (SON).

Assistant professors Britta Bang Larsen and Jette Marcussen from the School of Nursing at the campus in Odense, Denmark said the main reason for their trip was to "see students in PBL action."

Larsen said: "We need to keep developing our own PBL. As we go along, we need the coaching to see what kinds of things we can create in terms of case studies, and how we can develop further in self-directed learning."

The visit was a continuation of McMaster Associate Professor Charlotte Noesgaard’s work with the nursing school in Odense. The baccalaureate nursing program there has been engaged in PBL for over seven years and various faculty members have participated in faculty development workshops at McMaster. As their consultant, Noesgaard travelled to Denmark in August of 2011 and 2012 to facilitate interactive workshops, topic-focused discussions, and a demonstration of the tutor role in PBL.  

Jette Marcussen with a group of Level 4 McMaster nursing students
Jette Marcussen, far right, sits in with a group of Level 4 McMaster nursing students in their problem-based learning course.

McMaster pioneered PBL in nursing education. PBL is student-centred and involves small-group, self-directed learning. The student is responsible for identifying knowledge gaps related to a health-care situation, acquiring new knowledge, and applying this knowledge in group discussion. Within the SON’s new Kaleidoscope Curriculum, PBL has evolved into person-based learning within a problem-based approach. Students encounter the person – an individual, family or group – through a multimedia narrative designed to engage them in the learning process. Students are assisted in considering the strengths and assets of the person in the care scenario, in addition to the health challenges that may be present.

While on campus the visiting faculty sat in with several PBL classes; saw first-hand the integration of resources to support PBL, including library and e-technology resources, and the distribution of space in the SON; learned about the development of professionalism and the code of conduct in the Faculty of Health Sciences; and met with the assistant dean of the undergraduate program, and other key faculty members.

"We have learned a lot from Charlotte over the past two years, but being here we can see things that she can’t explain in a room in Denmark," said Marcussen. "It was very interesting to see the Level 4 students interacting with each other, tutoring each other, and developing their own cases. I think we can do the same with our own students when we teach them."

Larsen added: "There are so many facets to PBL, so it’s impossible to learn and implement them all at once."

Noesgaard said Marcussen and Larsen "value the historical expertise from McMaster and our passion to be innovative in PBL."

She added: "Our students are immersed in PBL. For most programs, PBL is one or two courses, where here it is embedded in the program. That’s the richness of McMaster and that’s why they wanted to visit."

Noesgaard will continue her partnership with the School of Nursing in Odense for the next two years as their faculty refine their case studies and gain greater application of PBL with their students. As part of this, Assistant Professor Helle Elizabeth Andersen from Odense will also visit McMaster for three weeks in June.

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