Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
||An Exercise in Problem-Based Learning
||School of Applied Science, University of Glamorgan, UK
|| +44 (0)1443 482469
||+44 (0)1443 482285
Problem-based learning is characterised by a collection of carefully constructed
problems presented to a small group of students. The problems usually consist
of descriptions of sets of observable phenomena or events that need explanation.
Essential to the method is that the students' prior knowledge (in itself) is
insufficient for them to understand the problem in depth. P.B.L. is stated as
being an ideal learning method for the acquisition of knowledge and Key Skills.
Students are divided into groups and each group is given a problem. This problem
may be in the form of experimental data; a video extract; a newspaper / scientific
article; a paper case history; or, in the case of medical schools, a patient.
Progression is through seven steps:
- clarification of terms and concepts,
- 'brainstorming' the nature of the problem,
- assembly into problem areas,
- definition of problems / issues,
- formulation of learning questions,
- acquisition of knowledge by self-directed learning,
- reporting back and solution.
- Students genuinely enjoy P.B.L. as they learn in context in an integrated
way. They generally perceive the relevance of their learning.
- Students understand why they have to learn something and can see how to
apply that learning.
- They retain information they learn and learn 'how to learn'.
- Students do not learn unnecessary details but concentrate on key concepts
- Key Skills are developed that will/should remain with them for the rest
of their lives.
- Students learn how and where to find information and how to process it systematically.
- Students learn how to analyse and solve problems.
- Students learn how to work in or lead a team.
- Students are unprepared for this style after A levels.
- Not all students like group work.
- Some enjoy discussing and some do not.
- P.B.L. is more time consuming. Is it more cost effective for a single member
of staff to lecture to 200 students than for 25 staff to sit silently(?) listening
to the discussion of a small group?
- Small groups need small rooms and sufficient space for private study.
- Considerable demand for books and computers.
- Staff resistance.
P.B.L. postulates that:
- Learning through problem solving is much more effective for creating in
a student's mind a body of knowledge that is useable in the future than didactic
(instructional) traditional methods of learning.
- In life / industry, problem solving skills are more important than factual
memory recall alone.
- Employable students need to devote time to practising and developing skills
that will be beneficial to their future professions.
A Problem Based Learning (P.B.L.) Exercise in Forensic Geology.
The students are asked to assist in a (fictional!) case where a body has been
found and murder is suspected. Evidence, in the form of hand specimens and thin
sections is presented to the students. More or less information may be given
depending on the time available and / or level of students' knowledge. For example,
if the students' note-taking skills need developing then the brief could be
read out (in the manner of a verbal police report). If the students' mineral
identification skills need developing then the samples could be provided without
Keywords can be used to search for specific topics
Abstracts are also listed by Originator
Page created 5 June 2000
Database pages maintained by Phil Gravestock