Section

Student experience

Abstract

This study was initiated to explore the effect of problem-based learning on learners’ attitudes among tertiary level students. The decision to concentrate on a sample from Bangladesh was motivated largely by that country’s poor record to date in pedagogical innovation, meaning that the experiment could take place in the closest thing to an uncontaminated laboratory as this type of research permits. That students’ attitudes towards learning were positively influenced by PBL to a statistically significant degree can be taken as a decisive endorsement of the method as a vehicle for teaching and learning. Clearly, the students who made up the sample have an appetite for constructivist approaches that place them at the center and redefine the teacher as a facilitator, rather than an orator. As a contribution to the debate about future educational directions in Bangladesh, this is highly persuasive.

Practitioner Notes

1. Traditional methods do not tend to engender a positive attitude in students and so are to be either avoided or, at least, used judiciously. At most, they should be part of a mix that includes more student-centred approaches, such as problem-based learning. 2. Students respond best to constructivist approaches that build on current knowledge. The best PBL projects are those that draw on material to which they can easily relate, so lesson planning should be based around real world issues that, as far as possible, touch on areas of personal interest for the students. 3. Teachers should reconceptualise themselves as facilitators of learning, their role being to guide students towards meaningful solutions, rather than as experts committed to only one outcome. The teacher, then, should set the problem, advise on methodology and monitor progress, but without dictating a direction. 4. PBL projects should be planned to allow for genuine problem-solving in a collaborative environment. Students should be given opportunities to claim ownership of their work. 5. Assessment should take into account the process as much as the outcome and there should not, ideally, be only a single outcome: the purpose of problem-solving should be to give students the chance to undergo a process of discovery.

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