How Problem based learning is fostering innovation at CEDAT

Students of CEDAT have partnered with their counterparts of Alto University in Finland to recycle plastics. The students who include artists, construction managers, surveyors and engineers have worked together on this project under the Problem Based Mode of learning. PBL gives students an opportunity to interact with the community in identifying a problem and also finding solutions to the challenge.

The students who recycled plastics made products such as phone holders made from water bottles, plastic rulers, jewelry, art works, name tags, among others.

Speaking during the regional conference on Strengthening Problem Based Learning in East Africa, held at CEDAT on October 23, Dr Venny Nakazibwe, the coordinator of the project said plastics are a real-life situation affecting everyone and the Environment. Owing to this the students set out to find a solution to this challenge.

She said the students set out to look into a way of improving people’s mindsets on disposal of plastics and also find out what can be done with the plastic waste so that it can be put to a better use.

“It may not be eliminated completely but what can be done is to collect all the plastics that cause a challenge to everyone, ” she said.

“Through this, we have done community awareness and collected the most dangerous plastics from the drainages where students have put them together and used them as building materials in the construction sector through generating low cost blocks for construction that can be used as pivots for construction purposes.”  

The three-year project is being supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign affairs and brings together a consortium of Universities among them, the University of Nairobi, University of Da-er-salaam and Aalto University of Finland.

The team of researchers from the collaborating institutions met on October 23, 2018 at Makerere University to discuss the progress of the PBL program.

The team observed that the students and lecturers had made tremendous progress and also enjoyed and learnt a lot while working together. One of the students shared with the team how she has learnt to weld despite not being an engineer. Another learnt team work and thinking outside the box in search of solutions to the challenges afflicting society.

Some of the advantages of the PBL as discussed include; Development of Long-Term Knowledge Retention. Students who participate in problem-based learning activities can improve their abilities to retain and recall information. Elaboration of knowledge at the time of learning” — by sharing facts and ideas through discussion and answering questions — “enhances subsequent retrieval.” This form of elaborating reinforces understanding of subject matter, making it easier to remember. Each student gets a chance to participate.

It was noted that PBL allows for continuous engagements between students and lecturers. Providing a problem-based learning challenge can engage students by acting as a break from normal lessons and common exercises. It’s not hard to see the potential for engagement, as students collaborate to solve real-world problems that directly affect or heavily interest them.

  • It allows students to demonstrate their capabilities while working independently.
  • It lets teachers have multiple assessment opportunities.
  • It shows the student’s ability to apply skills such as doing research.
  • It develops a student’s ability to work with other students, building teamwork and group skills.
  • The teacher learns more about the student as a person.
  • It helps the teachers communicate in meaningful ways with the student or a team. Being able to give meaningful feedback is very important.

The Vice Chancellor, in his speech read for him by the College Principal Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, thanked the Finish Government and partners for working with Makerere university in improving the curriculum of the university.

He emphasized that the objectives of the workshop were line with the Strategic Plan of Makerere University. “The University is moving towards leaner-centered approach to teaching and being research led. The importance of Problem Based learning and research centeredness cannot be underscored in improving the quality of our graduates’” he said.