How would an educational narrative unfold if we had specific and explicit goals to develop an entire programme for undergraduate students that promoted the ability to identify and solve problems, to think critically, to work in groups and to communicate more effectively? Here is an actual snapshot of how this story is being written in the BHSc Programme at McMaster University:
"I learned today that I was accepted into the McGill Bioethics Programme. An interesting situation considering they initially said I had to be from a professional programme. I guess I made quite an impression at the bioethics meeting. I seemed to be the only one asking questions at dinner.
Looking back at my education in the McMaster BHSc Programme, I now see why my education was so different from my peers. The difference was that it was me who learned to define my needs and match them to opportunities. It started in Inquiry 1E06. My facilitator was Margaret Secord. What a live wire. I had no idea what was going on. She gave me a course outline and a time to meet but did not tell me what to do or give me any deadlines. She told me that the course was focussed on skills. I would have to meet with Margaret four times over the year to discuss evidence supporting my ability to self-evaluate my skills and knowledge. I quickly learned that my ability to do this was much weaker than I thought. I would have to negotiate a mark based on a review of evidence. I could not even figure out what evidence she was talking about.
"Our class was divided into groups of five and my group interviewed a standardized homeless person. The group was supposed to explore a question. What question? She did not tell us and it took awhile to get going. In the end, we had answers to questions but that was not really what we learned. We learned to work with each other, to ask questions, to find answers, to think about the answers. By the end of the year, I had a better understanding and I knew that I had grown in so many ways. I was not looking forward to lecture courses. Were there any more opportunities like this?
"The rest was fun. I worked in groups in second year Inquiry and Cell Biology. I learned to learn, to know what was important and what was not. They used the same evaluation models and a great deal of reflection was required. In third year, I built my communication skills with Carl deLottinville and then went to South America to satisfy my learning objectives in a community clinic. As I ran out of Inquiry courses, I asked for new ones so I could 'get my learn on.' I reinforced it all with my skill set as I went along and, from where I sit now, I can see that I am a much more mature learner than many students I know from other Faculties. I think I will stay in school, my school."
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