Problem Based Learning or PBL

Problem Based Learning or PBL

Problem Based Learning (PBL or as I like to refer to them peeble) groups are a way of actively learning about topics in education, rather than being lectured at and passively absorbing the information.

Otter has peeble   (Source: Dan Thorogood)

Benefits are you’re more engaged with the learning and so it’s more interesting, and you gain transferable MDT skills in working together on an issue with colleagues. If the PBL sessions are organised in a structured way it can also help you to structure your approach to discovering or solving the issue. Related to groupwork with clients, they can also be a chance to practice or observe group dynamics in real life in a ‘safe’ environment, and to practice your facilitator skills. Finally, as an OT student you could also use them as a CPD entry: write a reflection on the experience related to the previous points and whack it in the ol’ folio.

Some examples of how you can evidence a PBL/study group as CPD learning:

  • An email invitation to the meeting, an outline of the session, an action plan from the session, with a subsequent update can be recorded and stored in your CPD portfolio (HCPC standard= Maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD activities)
  • Participation in an action learning set demonstrates you are taking personal responsibility for your learning beyond ‘traditional’ methods e.g. attending courses (HCPC standard= Demonstrate that their CPD activities are a mixture of learning activities relevant to current or future practice)
  • xx
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The COT has produced some documents which have guidelines for helping you do group based learning (like PBLs or article review groups etc). They have some helpful questions to ask to keep discussions on the topic at hand, and not let it dissolve into someone describing in detail how it happened to them this one time, and everyone else glazing over .

Critical writing/academic essay skills

Critical writing/academic essay skills

As a student getting your ideas across in essays is crucial in order to convey you have grasped the ideas and can see both sides. These skills will still be needed when you are writing or reading research papers once you’re qualified, or when you need to convey one or both sides of a treatment approach in a report about patient care to others in an MDT. Any points you make need to be backed up with evidence to make them valid.

Critical thinking requires quite a few skills to be carried out effectively, including observation, categorisation, analysis, judgement/reasoning, making final decision, persuasion,  perseverance in repetition of examining facts, and objectivity. This last skill forms the basis of being able to critically analyse both sides of a situation or concept.

Evidence used in essays must be:

Appropriate – Making the same point as you and not similar or just on the same topic. Also must be recent unless it’s a historically seminal piece of work about principles or foundations.

Proportionate – Specific statements about defined populations or findings may only need one piece of evidence, but the bigger the statement the more evidence you need- views from for and against camps are needed to represent the whole debate.

Synthesised – How is it synthsised or worked into the flow of the essay? How does the evidence move your point towards its conclusion? So what if the research shows that ‘banana therapy is most effective for under 30s’ …what statement that you’ve made in your essay is it proving?



How do I get OT shadowing experience? What do they ask at OT MSc course interviews? And other questions.

How do I get OT shadowing experience? What do they ask at OT MSc course interviews? And other questions.

The lowdown

Recently I got to represent Occupational Therapy at a postgraduate event, and it was great being able to help future OT students by offering some advice here and there. A lot of them commented that it was really helpful having current students there, as well as the University’s admission tutors, and it made me cast my mind back to the stressful months & weeks before my interview when I’d have sat through the every episode of Big Bang Theory in return for a student godmother to ask three questions to.otter student

Below are some of the most common questions together with the advice I gave:

How do I get OT shadowing experience?

You can try contacting local hospitals’ OT departments and asking them. However in my experience, the success rate for people obtaining shadowing experience this way is low. A better way is to use your existing contacts, and think outside the box. By this I mean think about who you already know, and think about all the places where OTs work (clue: it’s not just hospitals).

Some ideas are:

Traditional settings– hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nurseries, supported living facilities, day centres for people with learning disabilities, community health teams, hand clinics.

Non-traditional settings– mental health/psychiatric facilities, equine therapy/animal assisted therapies, assistive technology centres, research labs, prosthetic/orthotic clinics, chronic pain management clinics, palliative care/hospices, oncology depts, military hospitals/rehab centres, private schools, independent practitioners, prisons/criminal justice system, vocational rehabilitation, community-based or mental health outreach teams, A&E.

OTs are generally acknowledged to be the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The ones that I contacted ranged from willing-to-help to bent-over-backwards-to-offer-clinical-contact-and-photocopied-relevant-book-pages-for-me. Even if you don’t have a family member who’s an OT, ask around if anyone knows of one and you will be surprised. Then be shameless in approaching them directly for help! The worst they can do is politely decline, but I guarantee they won’t. Read more