The Problem-Based Learning Gaze: A Foucaultian Perspective

Salochana Lorraine Hassan

Abstract


PBL is often valorized but has not, hitherto, been examined in terms of the way in which power manifests through group dynamics and how this might influence learning. In this paper, Foucault’s theory of power, as in “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”, is used as a conceptual framework for gaining a deeper understanding of PBL group work. According to Foucault, it is not a person who has a hold on power, but rather visibility that assures the hold of power. Specifically, this paper examines the PBL “gaze” and its hold on students. During PBL tutorials, the tutor (and peers) was able to closely observe and continuously judge the performance of students during both participation and non-participation. Tutors and peers alike were able to judge the functioning of the group at a glance. During PBL tutorials it was this surveillance which kept students under subjection. They may never have known when they were being watched and their performance monitored and, they therefore, held themselves in subjection, controlling their behavior, speech and interaction with one other. Students could have experienced this type of surveillance and self-surveillance as threatening and oppressive, and it could have constrained their learning. This article provides recommendations for PBL tutors regarding the cognizance of the manifestation of power when it comes to the management of group dynamics so that tutorials can be a positive place for all group members. Although this study looked at group dynamics within the context of PBL, the argument regarding tutorials not being power-free zones could be applicable to other forms of collaborative learning.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n10p443


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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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