June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.216.1 - 15.216.12
Assessment of Problem-Based Learning
Utilizing real-world problems as a stimulus for student learning is not at all new and has been in practice for a very long time. Problem-based learning has been defined as minds-on, hands-on, focused, experiential learning (Wilkerson & Gijselaers, 1996). A problem-based curriculum is significantly different from the traditional discipline centered curriculum (Woods, 1994). Instructors are considered to serve as problem solving colleagues assigned with the responsibility of promoting interest and enthusiasm for learning. Instructors are also encouraged to act as cognitive coaches who can nurture an environment that can support open inquiry (Barrows, 2000). It is important that the aims and objectives of problem-based learning be reflected in every aspect of the learning environment created. Problem-based curriculum should document accomplishments at the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy Triangle (Boud & Feletti, 1991). Scholars in the area of cognitive science and educational psychology have identified four features that clearly separate a problem-based curriculum from a traditional, topic-based curriculum (Nickerson, et. al. 1985). In this presentation, the author describes how he has utilized and assessed the five features in his Senior Design Capstone Course. He also presents analyses of the feedback data he obtained and suggests guidelines for further improvement.
One has to appreciate the fact that students need motivation to become lifelong learners. Thereore it is the responsibility of the instructors in higher education to develop, generate, create and establish an environment in which students not only obtain necessary background knowledge, but also become enthusiastic in becoming lifelong learners (Deemer, 2003). Educational psychologists have argued that one may want to focus on solving certain specific problems in a particular type of classroom so that teaching is less emphasized compared to a productive learning environment (Aspy, 1970). Scholarly teaching not only helps instructors experiment their innovative ideas, but also helps the students to focus more on the process of learning through a discovery approach (Broadley, Broadley, Slater, & Suddaby, 2000).
Researchers have also concluded that students are indeed focused on learning the subject matter than on just obtaining impressive grades (Pollio and Beck, 2000). Regardless, students also admit that grades are extremely important for them, keeping in perspective, their future career goals. This may appear like conflicting interests, however one should appreciate the fact that the goals and objectives of students as well as the instructors still remain the same, namely the importance of emphasizing learning in the classroom environment. Students should have a desire to accomplish a better performance on the learning modules that promote deeper processing techniques and challenges (Graham & Golen, 1991). Researchers have also concluded that effort and capability are closely related and there are plenty of recorded studies that correlate strong motivation to cognitive engagement creative learning (Pintrich, 2000, Ames and Archer, 1988).
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