Context Based Learning

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Does anyone else out there go to a school that uses the CBL (Context based learning) approach. I go to a school in Alberta and all the University of Alberta collaborative schools use this format for their nursing degree programs. It involves group learning instead of formal classroom settings. We are given nursing scenarios and have to research and teach ourselves and our classmates. I am interested to find out if our program is unique and what people think of the program. Our class has very mixed feelings, some love it some hate it. We are only the 3rd class through so there are no graduates in the workforce as of yet to see how we fare in a job setting.


338 Posts

Hi Chaundra,

Our nursing school did that sort of learning, but only part of the time. I liked it, but that was because I was very good at library research and ferretting out all sorts of stuff. I can't say that I would have liked it for ALL of my program, sometimes a lecture is a nice way to get information. It sounds as if you are learning a lot though.


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I also think that it would be better as a component of the education instead of the main focus. My class mates and I find ourselves frustrated at the lack of formal teaching, and feel like too much emphasis is put on teaching ourselves.


15 Posts

Originally posted by Chaundra:

We are given nursing scenarios and have to research and teach ourselves and our classmates.

We use something similar to that - case studies. Only one instructor right now uses them to teach her section of theory (cardiac). I'm a senior nursing student in an associates degree program. I'm going into my last semester next week (yeah!!). I have mixed feelings about the case studies. I'm very much used to traditional lectures, but the case studies really make you think critically.


55 Posts

Hi, Chaundra!

At uni we also had this approach, except it was called "Problem Based Learning" (PBL). Our university pioneered the approach. In some ways I quite liked it.

As far as theory goes, there is really no better way to learn. Those of us that didn't like it changed their minds towards the end of the course. That's because it takes some getting used to. If you prepare at home, you can take advantage of tutorial classes and use tutors as a resource for what you couldn't find out or understand.

PBL also allows you to get used to finding great resources for learning. For instance, there are some great websites with online tutorials that would beat just about ANY lecture. I got really good at researching journal articles and books and searching the internet because I relied on it for my learning.

The downside is that there are gaps between theory and practice, and the university doesn't rush out and fill those gaps for you, especially those that use an approach like PBL. Once you've done some clinicals and found these gaps, make sure you talk to your clinical educators, lecturers and tutors for advice on how to bridge those gaps. Make the most of these opportunities and don't ever be afraid of sounding ignorant - those that don't ask will never be informed!

The best of luck with your studies!



26 Posts

I suppose you are right, I do like it better now that I am in my second year. The first year many were ready to drop out because of frustration with the program. I think we are doing much the same thing, we had to base our tutorial groups on a book called problem based learning which was not an easy read. I do agree though that my researching skills have improved. I have seen the major gaps as you mentioned, when we get into the hospital, for example, this year we had trouble on the floor because we had been given no instruction on charting and were expected to chart once we started working. I think because it is such a new program, there are alot of these 'gaps' to bridge.

Thanks for the encouragement


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i recently just dropped my BScN program in the middle of my second year of a context based learning program...and although i will continue with my nsg education (i have applied to several non-cbl universities) and was not unsuccesful, it will not be in a cbl program. honestly, i cannot say i would be totally comfortable with a cbl-trained nurse looking after myself or a loved one in a critical care a community health setting, sure, no problem, but definitely not in a life and death situation. i have had and continue to have some serious concerns about the overall effectiveness and even viability of this type of training.

...and, lol, don't even get me started about the non-transferability of the damn program!

(hey chaundra, guess who? lol)


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26 Posts

Well, seven, I sense just a little hostility. I hope the traditional classes work better for you. Though there is a certain traditional philosophy class that is so boring, it makes me long for CBL. Most of the time however, working in group settings with nursing students makes me want to pull my hair out.


14 Posts

I too am in the CBL in Alberta, and am really undecided on the whole issue. In some respects, like when a classmate shares a personal experience related to the scenario with the group, I couldn't think of a better way to learn and remember something, BUT when the whole group is fumbling about something they are unsure of for 30 minutes, and we spend at least 45 minutes evaluating our performance in tutorial today, I think that I may be able to use my hour and fifteen more effectively, or that I'd rather have had a lecture on something for an hour and really been able to pull something solid out of it. You know?




39 Posts

...oh sarah, i hear you! LOL, my general views on CBL have been broadcasted loud and clear here, so i will spare everyone another rant....about the time management issue, i couldn't agree more though. i find it amazing that we are given EVEN LESS time to operate/learn within a group setting than we would be given in a more traditional setting. doesn't it seem logical (call me wacky) that we should have more, NOT LESS, time considering it is just a bulkier, more complex process than "walk into the classroom, sit down, take notes, leave"?

...again, i would like to mention that i do realize i am not particularly suited to this learning style, but i am intrested in what others (not you chaundra, i know what you think, i see you every day, lol) involved in this process honestly think of it, re: both it's strengths and weaknesses, your prediction about what kind of nurses it will produve, etc.......pretty much anything you want to share about your experiences with this infernal program....ooop, i mean, um..innovative program, LMAO.

thanks and cheers!


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CBL is the worst thing which can happen to a student and the best for the teacher..LOL!! i will rather say if the program is CBL based there should be no teachers. I am in a CBL based program in alberta and it is the mother of all evil. the pain is not in finding research, integrating experiences or real life scenarios or in independently directing learning, critical thinking but the most painful task is brain storming. I simply do not understand the logic behind how can we brainstorm on something we have never com across!!

but students manage to brainstorm, group most of the time ends up picking some irrelevant topics and missing some relevant ones and it usually involves repetitive topics of research ...another down fall . third downfall is the group dynamics some students present really good research some end up ******* the important topics consequently harming the whole group.

I am from south asia and we had PBL in our university backhome but not like what we have here in Alberta in nursing. we had a few workshops like labs and usually got scenarios based on what we had got lectures important thing about the program was very clearly defined objectives, expectations and outcomes and with every lecture we had a baseline idea and in workshops we were so comfortable in applying critical thinking.

I like CBL approach as long as it is supplemented by traditional they say teacher is the guiding teachers are there for a reason and their knowledge and experience should be utilized to build and maximize student potential

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