Broadening the base and deepening the understanding in problem-based learning

Year: 1994

Author: Kingsland, Arthur

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores the integration of both essential theoretical material and specialisations, at a deep learning level within integrated problem-based learning (PBL) courses. This opposes what is seen as a simplistic approach to PBL in which student objectives are focused on identifying what the problem is, discovering learning needs and solving the posed problem. This view limits all learning to shallow thinking associated with the practical aspects of the problem to be solved.

This paper argues that a tertiary education setting should allow students to develop and master higher order knowledge, processes and attitudes. PBL is presented as a concept and a strategy rather than as a formula to be followed. Discussion includes the opportunity created by the PBL approach for divergent search beyond the immediate problem for issues that may have an impact on the solution. This is then followed by a rigorous analysis of the relative merit of the material and the development of understanding of the usefulness of this material specifically for the problem as currently posed and as more general professional development for the future.

This paper provides examples where, although the problem solved may be anchored in practical workplace settings, the issues that can be developed involve higher-order thinking and exploration of complex concepts. The paper demonstrates that the initial divergent search for material relating to the scenario can be used to concentrate in depth on issues that are normally taken as givens in workplace settings.