Learning Recursively: Integrating PBL as an authentic problem experience

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Invited presentation given at 3rd Regional Conference on Engineering Education and Research in Higher Education, Kuching, 7 June 2010

Invited presentation given at 3rd Regional Conference on Engineering Education and Research in Higher Education, Kuching, 7 June 2010

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  • Students like certainty of familiar systemsNeed time to adjust to PBLTutors are used to providing informationChallenged by different approach
  • Collaboration in groups has benefitsEven for silent studentsStudents are used to individual studyNeed group skillsMedium-sized (6) groups work bestResource challengesTutors need facilitation skillsExpertise in subject is less important
  • BarriersTime = interaction of motivation, priorities & flexibility and effects on participationTechnology = student skill levelsLearning = personal learning styles/preferences and interaction among group members


  • 1. Learning Recursively:Integrating PBL as an Authentic Problem Experience
    Peter AlbionUniversity of Southern QueenslandAustralia
    Image: Daragh CC (by) (nc) (sa)
  • 2. Overview
    The world we live in
    Why Problem Based Learning
    Approaching PBL as PBL
    What counts as PBL?
    Challenges of implementing PBL
    Facing the challenges
  • 3. The world we live in
    Exponential knowledge increase
    Learning is a lifelong activity
  • 4. Friedman: The World is Flat
    Image: Eva the weaver CC (by) (nc) (sa)
  • 5. Brown: From push to pull
    Image:John Atherton CC (by) (sa)
  • 6. Brown: From stock to flow
    Image:Amyc500 CC (by) (nc)
  • 7. 21st century education
    to be not about
    by doing not listening
    Learning how to learn
  • 8. Why Problem-Based Learning?
  • 9. At the heart of PBL
    Solving authentic problems
    Matches 21st century skills
  • 10. Motivations for PBL
    Ongoing learning
  • 11. 4 ‘uncommon’ objectives of PBL
    Structure knowledge for practice
    Develop clinical reasoning
    Develop self-directed learning
    Increase motivation
  • 12. PBL outcomes
    More nurturing & enjoyable
    Equal on clinical but less base knowledge
  • 13. Problem-based learningpredates 21st century skills but remains relevant
  • 14. 21st century professionals
    Information literate
    Learning as needed
    Integrating across disciplines
  • 15. PBL fits 21st century learning
  • 16. Approaching PBL as PBL
    Image:blmurch CC (by) (sa)
  • 17. PBL begins with a problem
    Group analysis of what needs to be known
    Individual research
    Developing a solution
    Reflection on process & learning
  • 18. PBL implementation as PBL
    Problem = how to design course using PBL
    Requires knowledge of PBL and challenges
    Enables developing & testing solution
    Reflection informs next steps
  • 19. PBL & problem solving heuristics
    Understand, plan, execute, evaluate
    Ask, imagine, plan, create, improve (STEM)
  • 20. PBL implementation is recursive
    Applied to educators’ practice
    Effects PBL for students
  • 21. What counts as PBL?
  • 22. 5 characteristics of PBL
    Starting point is a problem
    Authentic for professionals
    Knowledgeorganised around problems
    Students have responsibility for learning
    Most learning in small groups, not lectures
  • 23. PBL tutors
    Not knowledge dispensers but resources
    Consistent with 21st century learning
  • 24. Advocates argue for program level
    Clear distinction from related approaches(anchored, case-based, project based)
    Difficult to achieve purity in practice
  • 25. How pure must PBL be?
    Barrows proposed a taxonomy
    Spectrum of methodsAchieving objectives by degrees
  • 26. Two dimensions of PBL
    Presentation of problem as open or closed
    Learning directed by teacher or student
  • 27. PBL is a spectrum of methods
    Six methods on spectrum
    Major benefits with full PBLOther methods have benefits
    Image:Charles TilfordCC (by) (nc) (sa)
  • 28. Barrows’ taxonomy of PBL methods
  • 29. Challenges of implementing PBL
    Student & tutor roles
    Collaborative group work
    Design of curriculum & assessment
    Use of technology in PBL
  • 30. Student & tutor roles change
    Students accept more responsibility
    Tutors provide less information
  • 31. PBL involves group work
    Collaboration has benefitsEven for silent students
    Students need group skillsMedium-sized (6) groups work best
    Tutors need facilitation skillsExpertise in subject may be less important
  • 32. Curriculum & assessment for PBL
    Design of problems is criticalNeed to address all aspects of courseNeed to motivate learners
    Traditional assessment not appropriateNeed to focus on problems not facts
  • 33. Technology in PBL
    Multimedia presentation of problemsIncreases motivationLittle or no effect on performance
    Computer mediated communicationSupports online & distributed PBLBenefits for access to informationLess benefit for collaboration
  • 34. Facing some PBL challenges
    PBL for distance educationInteractive Multimedia-PBLEngineering problem solvingEducation inquiry course
    PBL with large distributed groupsLarge problem in groupsScaffolding with sub-tasks
  • 35. Interactive Multimedia-PBL
    PBL for individual/isolated students – How?
    PBL groups stimulate ideas
    Build varied ideas into materials
    PBL tutors facilitate & model thinking
    Structure with sub-tasks with aids
    Include expert responses
    Success confirmed by
    PBL evaluators
    Student response
  • 36. Engineering problem solving
    PBL for groups at a distance – How?
    Virtual teams interact via Moodle
    Group forums & wikis
    Email & chat for messages & files
    Virtual teams perform as well as on campus
    Some added barriers
    Time, technology and learning
    Course team plans
    More technology such as videoconference
    Team building strategies
  • 37. Education inquiry course
    Group inquiry for 350 online students – How?
    Small group forums & wikis in LMS
    Optional virtual tutorials in Wimba
    Mixed results
    Some groups worked well
    Some groups had communication issues
    Lessons learned
    Need to prepare students for virtual collaboration
    Provide more models in future classes
  • 38. Large problem in groups
    150 students collaborate – How?
    Cohort on 2 campuses challenged
    Develop & share teaching materials
    Positive response to authentic task
    Materials used beyond graduation
    Management challenges
    Large group coordination
    Lessons learned
    Preparation for communication & coordination
    Peer assessment tool to moderate outcomes
  • 39. Scaffolding with sub-tasks
    PBL for 500 1st years on 3 campuses – How?
    Students & staff unprepared
    Applied IMM-PBL insights
    Scaffolding with sub-tasks
    Narrative for coherence
    Approach succeeded
    Supported staff & students for performance
    Strong evaluations
  • 40. PBL provides 21st century learning
  • 41. PBL is a spectrum of methods
    Image:Charles TilfordCC (by) (nc) (sa)
  • 42. PBL is challenging
    Student & tutor roles
    Collaboration in groups
    Curriculum & assessment design
  • 43. Treat PBL implementation as PBL
    Develop solutions for now
    Learn lessons for the future
  • 44. Questions
    Peter Albion
    University of Southern Queensland