Challenging Research in Problem-Based Learning

Challenging Research in Problem-Based Learning

Challenging Research in Problem-Based Learning

Challenging Research in Problem-Based Learning


"This is a wide ranging, clearly focused, accessible book that engages with the practices and findings of research into problem-based learning. The book is clear on the problems and the strategies, the debates and the research based practices which make PBL accessible wherever it is suitable for effective learning."
Professor Gina Wisker, Anglia Polytechnic University

"This book punctures the sometimes inflated rhetoric about PBL by exploring some of its inherent difficulties and contradictions, and moves debate on through critical glimpses of the rich and varied practices undertaken under the banner of PBL."
Professor Graham Gibbs, University of Oxford

"...provides a wealth of practical and theoretical insights into the challenges of using pbl which will be of value both to those currently using the approach and those thinking of introducing it into their programmes."
British Journal of Educational Technology

This book presents international research into Problem-based Learning within a range of subject and vocational disciplines, applications and cultures from a variety of perspectives: student, facilitator, module leader, curriculum designer. It presents a range of findings related to designing, implementing, assessing and evaluating PBL courses.

Challenging Research in Problem-based Learning is key reading for academics and tutors utilising PBL, as well as those studying for teaching qualifications, lecturers involved in teaching for the professions and on continuing professional development courses.

Terry Barrett, Brian Bowe, John Cowan, Roisin Donnelly, Erik de Graaff, Chris Hockings, Bill Hutchings, Dan Jacobsen, Peter Kandlbinder, Sharron King, Ranald Macdonald, Claire Howell Major, Yves Maufette, Karen O'Rourke, Betsy Palmer, Maggi Savin-Baden, Charlotte Silén, Alexandre Soucisse, Kay Wilkie.


The growing interest in problem-based learning comes from the integration of sound educational principles into a single, consistent teaching and learning approach. This approach commonly consists of aspects of selfdirected and life-long learning, with problem-solving and critical thinking skills developed through facilitated group learning. A basic premise of problem-based learning is that students take greater responsibility for their own learning, with the benefit that they develop a wider range of transferable skills such as communication skills, teamwork and problem-solving. At the same time problem-based learning students perform just as well in examinations, but develop slightly better reasoning ability and have consistently higher levels of satisfaction (Norman and Schmidt 2000).

In considering ways to improve problem-based learning most of the effort has focused on the role of the tutors (Barrows 1985, 1988). Margetson (1997), however, suggested that it is now necessary to rethink the nature of the problems used to trigger student learning. Margetson's argument is based in a belief that problem-based learning has a distinctive identity, which he proposes is centred on the problem (Margetson 2000). Within the problem-based learning context, problems are invariably defined as 'illdefined' and 'real-world', pointing out that they are artificial abstractions specifically constructed to facilitate student learning. Despite the success of problem-based learning in health and medicine, there has been a tendency for other disciplines, like science and humanities, to argue that this focus on 'problems' renders problem-based learning impractical for their particular knowledge domain. While it might be the case, as Margetson (2000) argued, that the use of problems is what helps to define problem-based learning, the very nature of how problem situations assist student learning is not well enough understood to make it helpful to lecturers in all disciplines. Van Berkel and Schmidt (2000) described a strong, direct effect on the students' interest in the subject matter and the quality of the problems . . .

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