Changing the Curriculum to Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning

Changing the Curriculum to Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning

Anette Kolmos (Aalborg University, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1809-1.ch003
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Problem based and project based learning (PBL) models are implemented all over the world in various versions at curriculum or course level. Due to this development, the conceptual understanding of PBL has become more diverse and sometimes confusing. This chapter summarizes the conceptual work done by the UNESCO Chair in PBL in engineering education in order to define PBL as a set of core learning principles that can be applied in practice. The PBL learning principles are formulated within three aspects: learning, social, and content of study. Furthermore, the chapter contains a PBL curriculum model, which can be used for analysis and development of the curriculum or single courses. Seven elements are identified as important for the planning and implementation of PBL learning principles, and for each of the elements there are several choices to be made. Finally, the chapter presents concrete advice for utilization of PBL learning principles in the curriculum or in the single course.
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Pbl Learning Principles

Due to the widespread use of PBL the specific understanding of the PBL concept has also become fuzzier. Graaff and Kolmos (2003, 2007) argue that there will always be variations in the models used. Particularly when PBL is used in various educational systems that represent a wide range of subjects, cultures and systems, the concrete models will and must be different. Therefore, it is not possible to define educational concepts by means of concrete educational practices. Instead, models have to be defined by learning principles beyond concrete educational practices and models.

The fundamental learning principles of the McMaster PBL model and the Aalborg PBL model are more or less the same. Barrows (1996) stresses these elements in relation to problem-based learning: the use of problems as a starting-point for the acquisition and integration of new knowledge, new information should be acquired through self-directed learning, it should be student-centred, learning should take place in small groups, and teachers should act as facilitators and guides rather than informants. Illeris (1976) formulated nearly the same elements: problem orientation, interdisciplinary learning, exemplarity of overall educational objectives and teamwork.

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