Problem-Based Learning: Enhancing Students' Authentic Learning

Problem-Based Learning: Enhancing Students' Authentic Learning

Ernest Ampadu (University of Ghana, Ghana) and Emmanuel Adjei-Boateng (University of Ghana, Ghana)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3949-0.ch015
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Abstract

Students learning and understanding is enhanced if the teaching and learning process is authentic. Authentic learning process leads to understanding and meaningful application of concepts learned. One way by which teachers can to provide authentic learning environment is through Problem-Based Learning (PBL). PBL offers opportunity for students to learn about something that is real and beneficial. Teacher education programs, pre-service or in-service, should help teachers to understand how to use PBL to provide students with authentic learning environments. The chapter aims at supporting teachers' understanding and application of PBL so that they can provide students with meaningful learning experiences. Specifically, this chapter is intended to assist teachers have a better understanding of PBL as a strategic approach to meaningful teaching and learning as well as identify effective ways to incorporate this approach into their pedagogical practices.
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What Is Problem-Based Learning?

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a promising approach to teaching, which is consistently calling for the attention of teachers and preservice teachers. However, its benefits can be realized when teachers and preservice teachers know what Problem-Based Learning is and understand how to apply it in appropriate teaching/learning situations. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an issue based, engaging and student-centered approach to teaching and learning. PBL is viewed as an inductive approach to teaching and learning (Smith, Shepherd, Johnson & Johnson, 2005) which is “focused, experiential learning (minds-on, hands-on) organized around the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems” (Torp & Sage, 2002 p. 15). Mansor et al (2005) also consider PBL as “an instructional method in which students work in collaborative groups to identify what they need to learn through facilitated problem solving” (p. 259). Problem-based learning is considered as one of the useful and student-centered teaching/learning approaches (Savery, 2006, p. 9). It creates a learning environment which is real, meaningful and therefore promotes authentic understanding of students.

It is important to note that Problem-based learning does not just focus on problem-solving. Rather, PBL involves a process that uses relevant issues to help increase students’ knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon. It is a student-centered and issue-based approach to teaching and learning in which students use “triggers” from the problem case, as a basis, to define their learning objectives. When group learning objectives are set, group members move into independent, self-directed research on the issue before returning to the group for further deliberation. The aim of this discussion is to synthesize and refine the acquired knowledge (Wood, 2003, p. 328) of team members. The discussion results in a commonly shared understanding among the group members regarding the phenomenon or solution to the issues involved.

The problem and need to look into it serve as a trigger because PBL usually begin when students have an open-ended, ill-structured, real-world problem to work within teams. Students work to identify learning needs and develop an appropriate solution. In this learning situation, the instructors act as facilitators, not the primary sources of information (Smith, Shepherd, Johnson & Johnson, 2005, p.128) since the teaching/learning process heavily center on the student. That is not to downplay the place of teachers in PBL learning environments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Authentic Learning: A form of learning focused on real life issues and experiences.

Preservice Teacher: A college or university students who is learning to become a teacher. That student is doing a program in teacher education.

Problem: An intricate unsettled question suitable for inquiry, consideration or solution.

Teaching: It refers to the work or profession of teachers. The art and science of facilitating students’ construction of meaning and understanding.

Group Learning: Relates to a collection of people engaged in leaning activity with a common purpose.

Teacher Education: Preparation offered to people for them to become teachers.

Learning: A relatively permanent change in behaviour because of experience. Emphasis is on the process/experience that would lead to the expected behavioural change.

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