Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview Prep, Part II

Now that I've come down off of my scholarship high, it's on to Interview Prep Part II: Stuff you should know about Mac. I'm going to say right up front that most of this information is available right on the McMaster rehab webpages... and that's exactly where I've pilfered it from! But some stuff is also word of mouth, reputation type stuff. So read on...

First things first... McMaster's program is based around a pedagogical approach known as Problem Based Learning. The Mac webpage on this topic sites 4 articles that you can go and read if you're really curious. And if you have no idea what PBL is and aren't sure about how/why it differs from other pedagogical approaches then you probably want to read up on it. If you've taken some education/learning/memory classes then you're probably familiar enough to judge whether it's right for you.
I'll come right out an say it!! Just because it's right for McMaster doesn't mean it's right for YOU. Not everyone will excel under this approach, so know yourself well enough to decide if it is best for you. In the end you want to get into a program that will help you to succeed. If you do better with the more linear knowledge-then-application model, using lectures and seminars/assignments, then consider other programs as your first choice instead of Mac.
Now on to the details...

McMaster uses Problem Based Learning because evidence has shown that it is a better way to learn for most people. This approach is based on research that indicates:
- Knowledge is best remembered in the context in which it is learned.
- The acquisition and integration of new knowledge requires activation of prior knowledge (for all you Psyc majors, remember back to your cognition and memory classes!)

What does this mean? In a nutshell, if you learn something while trying to do it you draw on your current knowledge/skills, figure out what's missing, get info to fill in the blanks, and get the job done. Then when you go to do that same task again, you'll be better able to recall how you did it, what skills/knowledge you used, what worked/didn't work. Plus there's this whole idea in psychology about "priming"... where just being in the same situation automatically activates the parts of your memory that have had to deal with that situation before. This is a really, REALLY, simpled-down version of why PBL works... but I hope it helps for those who just want to get the gist of it.

What makes PBL different from other teaching styles isn't so much why they use it as how it's done. Walton and Matthew (1989) describe the 7-Steps of the PBL Tutorial Process (and my layperson version of each step is in brackets):
1. Identify the problem. (Hey group - here's your case study/scenario for the lesson)
2. Explore pre-existing knowledge. (Group info sharing about what we each know regarding aspects of this situation)
3. Generate hypotheses. (Brain-storm about possible causes of problem/solutions to problem/what the heck is going on in this case study).
4. Identify learning issues. (What knowledge is the group lacking to fully understand/deal with the scenario?)
5. Research and self-study. (Go get info - divide and conquer)
6. Sharing and discussion of new knowledge and insights. (Bring back info to group and examine situation with addition of new knowledge)
7. Assessment and reflection on learning. (How did we do? Did we figure it out? Did we work well as a team? What were our team/individual strengths and opportunities change?)

You'll notice that there's no lecture or expert "giving" us answers. There's also very little independent work. You succeed or fail as a team. But there's also lots of room to be creative and to synergistically (is that a word?) build off of one another! I like team work, so GO TEAM!

What else can be said about PBL?
Features of PBL:
- Integrated curriculum, not separate courses.
- Organized around problems, not disciplines.
- Emphasizes development of cognitive skills (learn how to learn) as well as the acquisition of knowledge (learn stuff you need to know).
- Can meet personal needs based on prior knowledge and experience.
- Allows independent study that you can tailor to your learning style.
- Allows integration of information from many sources (no drawing lines in the sand around "my" discipline and "your" discipline. it's all fair game!)
- Gives you the skills to deal with future problems.

So, other than PBL, what should you know about McMaster?!?!
- They are known for having a really diverse range of placement opportunities.
- They offer the Northern Studies Stream that up to 50% of each class can participate in over the course of the program. (and for anyone who's never been to Northern Ontario... you should definitely try to go!! It's the most amazing place in the world. Not that it's a single place... but you catch my drift ;)
- Although we're all applying to a professional Masters program, McMaster has an excellent reputation for research in the field of Health Sciences. You may not want to be a researcher, but you do want to be an evidence-based practitioner... what better place to learn than where they're doing the research?! Who knows, you may even catch the research bug :)
- Because they publish a lot of research, you may want to check some of it out! Key search terms are the McMaster Lens and C.O.P.M (Canadian Occupational Performance Measure) for starters. Then there's lots more depending on your personal interests.

And I think that's all I know!!
I hope this helps you get prepared... but remember that I don't know everything! I may be leading you astray... I've never done this before either, lol. But I do promise my intention is to help. Everything I put on my blog is the stuff I'm doing to prepare myself.
And tomorrow will be Part III: Self-Reflection. Easily the hardest part (is that an oxymoron?)! I don't know about anyone else, but I'm having a heck of a time articulating myself in a way that doesn't make me sound like a walking cliche. *sigh*


  1. Hey sweetpea! I'm prepping for Mac OT (and PT) interviews and came across your site, SO very helpful! The training manual was fantastic, and now I have an idea of what to expect on Friday! Thank you and good luck! You seem very prepared and knowledgeable about the profession and the program, I'm sure you'll get in!

  2. Thank you Anonymous poster!! I'm glad the info was helpful :)
    Best of luck to you in your double interviews!!