#LTHEchat 262 Phenomenon-Based Learning led by Dr Kate Cuthbert @cuthbert_kate, Sue Lee @SueLee99 and Emily Chapman-Waterhouse @cwaterhouse_e

Graphic of a human head with phenomena like stars and rainbows jumbled together and bursting out.

How do we harness the phenomenal?

We are working on a project exploring the possibilities of using Phenomenon-based learning in higher education (PHBL). In PHBL, learning is provoked and guided by given events or occurrence. The selected phenomenon is a constant for the students as they progress through a cyclical enquiry process of engage, explore, expand and execute. The phenomenon plants itself within all learning activities providing a place and justification for discipline knowledge.

As a team we have experienced many a furrowed brow trying to conceptualise this approach to learning, how it might be differentiated with other more well-known approaches and what it might look like to different students and different educators. How might it positively disrupt module constraints? How could it be effectively employed to offer impactful interdisciplinary learning? What is the place of content/ knowledge? Is it best for a student to engage with content and theory before, during or after the applied context? So, it isn’t without irony when we say that our PHBL project has mirrored inquiry-based learning by producing more questions than answers! But what we have been struck with is how PHBL has triggered students to appreciate and apply their discipline knowledge to real world issues. 

During 6 workshops students from a variety of discipline backgrounds, different stages in their study and at 2 contrasting universities gave us their take on PHBL. As part of the testing of PHBL, our students interacted with phenomenon such as AI in Healthcare, Food Sustainability and High-Speed Rail developments. All of these phenomenon were introduced with a “What if” proposition….

  • What if your next GP appointment was led by a robot? 
  • What if all food consumed had to be produced within a 500-mile radius?
  • What if a community had to be relocated as part of the HS2 development?

You can imagine that a multidisciplinary group engaged with these phenomena in very diverse ways. The students generated their own lines of enquiry which represented their course experience and learning needs. Importantly though these lines of enquiry built up into a meta exploration of a phenomenon, where discipline boundaries were challenged, and discipline knowledge was contextualised. 

We are looking forward to hearing from the LTHEchat community about their experiences of using phenomena to trigger learning experiences.

Guest bios

A portrait photograph of Dr Kate Cuthbert

Dr Kate Cuthbert – Pedagogic Projects Development Manager in the Staffordshire Centre for Learning and Pedagogic Practice

A portrait photo of Sue Lee.

Sue Lee – Senior Research Fellow in the Staffordshire Centre for Learning and Pedagogic Practice

A photo of Emily Chapman-Waterhouse

Emily Chapman Waterhouse – Associate Head of Department (Veterinary Nursing) Harper Adams

Missed the chat? No worries, here is a link to the wakelet for #LTHEChat 262

About Beck McCarter

Passionate about improving both the staff and student experience, I am an Education Consultant and Team-Based Learning Evangelist
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