Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education: Untold Stories

By Maggi Savin-Baden | Go to book overview

4
From Rooks, Pawns
and Bishops

Introduction

At each of the research sites there was a diversity of opinion about how problem-based learning might be understood. By examining experiences of this approach across different institutions and educational environments, it became possible to point to differing ideologies and purposes, as well as differences between what was espoused and what occurred in practice at the different sites. Yet diversity can bring with it a conceptual richness that reaches far beyond concerns about narrow definitions of problem-based learning, whether groups should comprise six or eight members and what might constitute the role of the tutor in this process. These kinds of concerns can often get in the way of dialogue in the implementation and enactment of problem-based learning as well as of helping students to see the value of relationship in the learning process. Gergen (1987) has argued that the discourse of relationship represents a 'vastly unarticulated subtext', and has suggested that in articulating this subtext it is 'as if we have at our disposal a rich language for characterizing rooks, pawns and bishops but have yet to discover the game of chess' (Gergen, 1987: 63). Issues such as group size and tutor roles may be termed the rooks, pawns and bishops – disparate pieces in a game of chess. As such this chapter moves away from the pieces and examine the nature of experience in the context of problem-based learning programmes. The focus of this chapter is the presentation of the principal components of a new framework for understanding the nature of learner experience on problem-based learning programmes, which arose from my cross-site investigation into problem-based learning. This chapter offers an overview of the overarching framework that emerged from the data whilst the next chapter demonstrates, through students' data, the complexities and transitions experienced by students in the four problem-based learning contexts.

I have termed this framework 'Dimensions of Learner Experience' to encapsulate the idea that learners do not just engage the pedagogical

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