Problem-Based Learning: Childhood Obesity

Although I’m quite a fanboy for Problem-Based Learning, if you’re not familiar with the approach it’s one that, in a nutshell, encourages students to explore a question (“The Problem”) by researching information and proposing an appropriate solution. If you want a slightly more detailed explanation this short piece by Genareo and Lyons should fit the bill.

PBL is an approach I’m attracted to because it encourages students to think about and apply their knowledge to particular teacher-specified situations and, by so doing, evaluate the information they’re using. It represents a kind of holistic approach to teaching that involves the student directly in their own learning, guided at various points as-and-when required by their teacher. In this respect, PBL has what I like to think are a number of advantages:

• it encourages greater student involvement and investment in learning.
• it makes learning more-interesting because there’s always an end-product, in terms of some sort of solution, to whatever’s being studied.
• it demands active involvement in the teaching and learning process.
• it frees-up teacher time to concentrate on students who may be struggling with particular ideas, information and skills.
• it lends itself to Flipped Teaching / Learning, whereby students prepare for a PBL class in their own time so that class time can be used more-productively, in terms of learning and applying skills like analysis and evaluation.

On the downside, PBL frequently requires a lot of prior preparation in terms of both setting-up a “problem scenario” and finding the various resources students are required to use.

It’s always useful, therefore, to find “ready-made” examples that teachers can take, adapt as necessary and apply in their classrooms – and one such is this “problem-focused unit”, created by Jeanne Blakeslee and published by the Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) arm of the American Psychological Association, on childhood obesity.

While the document is fairly wide-ranging in terms of its coverage of obesity, Part 4: Related Psychological Content will probably be of most interest to psychologists because, as the name suggests, it indicates where and how various biological, cognitive and social psychological concepts and theories can be brought into the picture to help explain obesity.

Although the document contains all the instructions and resources you will need to run this particular class, the latter are largely focused on the USA, so if you’re teaching this outside America you might want to replace the various web and video links with examples drawn from your own particular society.

Additional Resource

If you want to throw a further resource into the mix you might consider something like the Rethinking Obesity video.

Featuring contributions from Clare Llewellyn and Cambridge neuroscientist Giles Yeo this film looks at obesity in the context of the nature-nurture debate in psychology.

The full version of Rethinking Obesity is available On-Demand to rent or buy.

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