Evaluation of the effectiveness of problem based learning as a method of engaging year one law students


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Slides for the presentation by Joanne Clough (University of Northumbria) and Gillian Smith (Nottingham Trent University) at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011.

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Evaluation of the effectiveness of problem based learning as a method of engaging year one law students

  1. 1. An evaluation of the effectiveness of problem based learning as a method of engaging year one law students Joanne Clough Senior Lecturer in Law, Solicitor Northumbria Law School Dr Gillian Smith Lecturer in Psychology Nottingham Trent University
  2. 2. <ul><li>&quot;Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Elizabeth F. Barkley (2010) </li></ul>
  3. 3. The context: Studying law at Northumbria <ul><li>LLB (Ex) </li></ul><ul><li>MLaw (Ex) </li></ul><ul><li>Module: English Legal Systems </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns in relation to Extrinsic motivation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students failed to attend, prepare and/or actively participate in discussion if they did turn up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on “passing” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of student engagement </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Moving forward: How to shift motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic <ul><li>Problem: </li></ul><ul><li>Participation in discussions </li></ul><ul><li>Penalties for lack of engagement: </li></ul><ul><li>Poorer understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Strained conversations </li></ul><ul><li>Decreasing motivation further </li></ul>
  5. 5. Eggert (1999)- How to increase motivation and engagement when subject not immediately interesting <ul><li>Give student responsibility for their work by enlarging the tasks- the student has some ownership and control over their studies </li></ul><ul><li>Teamwork in which the student group should be allowed to set their own targets and standards, thus the group can self manage </li></ul>
  6. 6. What is Problem Based Learning?
  7. 7. Six steps in PBL <ul><li>Problem is encountered before any preparation or study. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem is presented in the same way it would present in reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Student works with the problem in a way that challenges and evaluates his ability to reason and apply knowledge (appropriate to his level of learning) </li></ul><ul><li>Required areas of learning are identified while working with the problem and this will guide study. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills and knowledge acquired by this study are applied back to the problem, to evaluate the effectiveness of learning and to reinforce learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Learning that has occurred in work with the problem and in individualised study is summarised and integrated into the student’s existing knowledge and skills. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Barrows & Tamblyn (1980) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Why PBL? <ul><li>Through strong engagement with key issues in legal practice, students can take their learning into productive careers </li></ul><ul><li>Already tried and tested in Medicine </li></ul><ul><li>But when should we introduce this for maximum engagement to give maximum opportunity to learn applied skills? </li></ul>
  9. 9. The PBL exercise for the module <ul><li>Student participation can be increased by setting out clear expectations of them (Race, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>However: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem must be vague enough to engage students minds in research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem must directive enough to maintain interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tutor is “facilitator” rather than provider of knowledge </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Evaluating the exercise <ul><li>123 students completed the questionnaire </li></ul><ul><li>Questions were likert scored </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lectures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Group work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparison to other standard seminars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feelings at end of PBL </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preference of this as a style of teaching </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Evidence of increased student engagement <ul><li>Students agreed it increased their skills </li></ul><ul><li>Increased confidence in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Working in groups (64%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning by myself (71%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent research (67%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voicing opinions on law (64%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speaking in seminars (70%) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Positive group work experience <ul><li>Brainstorming enjoyable (69% agreed) </li></ul><ul><li>Discussing findings enjoyable (59% agreed) </li></ul><ul><li>Presenting conclusions enjoyable (73% agreed) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Overall experience <ul><li>49% agreed PBL more enjoyable than normal seminars </li></ul><ul><li>44% agreed PBL made subject matter more interesting </li></ul><ul><li>45% agreed PBL more realistic than normal seminars </li></ul><ul><li>Agreement that students understood subject matter </li></ul>
  14. 14. Should we teach more of the degree in his way? <ul><li>41% agreed </li></ul><ul><li>34% disagreed </li></ul><ul><li>25% neutral </li></ul>
  15. 15. Delivery of sessions and engagement <ul><li>Enjoyed working without tutor input </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mixed response 38.1% Agreed; 30.5% disagreed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Preferred more input from the tutor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>40.8% agreed; 34.0% disagreed </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Preparation and engagement <ul><li>Prepared better than for other seminars </li></ul><ul><ul><li>42.6% agreed with this </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Males more likely to agree they prepared better (48.9% vs. 37.8%) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Required more preparation than other seminars </li></ul><ul><ul><li>67.5% agreed with this </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher agreement for males than females (73.9% vs 62.2%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher agreement for prior legal experience (68.1% vs 64.6%) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Teacher’s perspectives <ul><li>Take back seat role: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students in charge and they worked hard </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Brainstorming generally good </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Group dynamics were interesting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Researching </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of attendance and engagement from wider group (but not for all) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Presentations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Excellent to more descriptive, but all relevant </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Follow on </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students more willing to speak in class, contribute to sessions, and this travels with them through their degree </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Reflection <ul><li>Overall successful curriculum development </li></ul><ul><li>Active learning method with group work and autonomous learning ( Barkley; Eggert) ) </li></ul><ul><li>Assisted with skills development </li></ul><ul><li>Indicators that PBL increased </li></ul><ul><li>student motivation </li></ul>
  19. 19. Questions/comments welcome!