Problem-based Learning in the classroom allows students to take a more active role in their learning, which in turn helps to develop greater levels of understanding. Instead of being taught using the traditional ‘teacher at the front of the class’ method, the children are encouraged to engage in active questioning and problem-solving. This helps to put new topics into context, making students far more likely to remember and use what they have learned in the future. This method is currently being implemented at Mukamusaba Primary School in Livingstone, with the assistance of Coventry University in the UK, to improve the effectiveness of the existing conservation education syllabus.
Members of Mukamusaba Conservation Club have been thinking about real-life situations in relation to conservation. They were presented with a scenario in which a lion attacked and killed one of their cows. The question was, should the lion be killed in retaliation, or should it be taken to a national park? The students discussed this dilemma in small groups before presenting their solution in the form of a poster. While the issue forced them into confronting a real-life problem for farmers in Zambia, after consideration, most groups decided that they believed the lion should not be killed. They cited its vulnerable status, the fact that it would affect the food chain, and other conservation-related issues as their reasons. Only one group thought that the lion should be destroyed. They argued that they needed their cows for meat and milk and that if the lion wasn’t killed, it would eat more of their livestock. This resulted in a lively debate in class, which is what Problem-based Learning is all about.
On another positive note, this learning method is helping the students to grow in confidence and become more articulate. As all discussions are held in English, Problem-based Learning is assisting in improving language ability, as well as developing presentation skills.