Preparing and supporting new facilitators for a problem-based learning environment

Year: 2012

Author: Lim, Lisa, Choy, Jeanette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Chair: Lisa A Lim


Substantial literature supports the notion that a planned long term approach in the design of staff development programmes is essential to achieve fundamental changes in core teaching practices and academics' learning compared with "one-shot" workshops.  Given that Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a relatively new approach to teaching and learning, new academics need to be oriented in a structured manner to apply the method confidently in their own classrooms. This study reports an investigation into the impact of a structured foundational staff development programme (PBL foundation programme) on new academics in their role as classroom facilitators in a PBL institution. The programme aims to provide a systematic framework to equip new academics with essential knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to be competent and confident facilitators who can provide valued and valuable learning experiences for students learning in a PBL environment. This is a longitudinal study that tracks new academics undergoing the mandatory foundational programme from start to completion. The expected outcomes of this programme are based on the knowledge, skills, competencies and attitudes required of a facilitator in a PBL environment. This study employs the framework proposed by Kirkpatrick (1994), which seeks to evaluate outcomes according to four levels: reaction, learning, behaviour, and results. Quantitative data were collected in the form of student feedback scores, facilitator confidence, and attitudes toward teaching, while pre- and post-programme surveys were used to collect qualitative data. The results indicate that while there was no observable change in student feedback and facilitator confidence, the programme had bought about a detectable change in academics' orientation towards teaching and learning to a more developmental perspective. The evaluation and reflection on academics' perceived facilitation confidence, key takeaways, and barriers to implementing their learning provided valuable feedback in the design of the PBL foundation programme. Key considerations for implementing a PBL staff development programme to better support the training and learning needs of new PBL facilitators are also discussed.