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Management of Knowledge in a Problem Based Learning Environment

Tom PAGE
Loughborough University, UK
(Corresponding author)

Gisli THORSTEINSSON
Iceland University of Education

Andrei NICULESCU
“Spiru Haret” University, Romania

Abstract: Problem Based Learning offers many benefits to students’ learning, however, the design and implementation of effective problem based learning (PBL) is not trivial. Central to effective implementation of PBL are the problem design and group working of the students. Design of good problems requires that the learning outcomes of the subject are covered in the problem given. Effective problems should include all learning outcomes as well as making sure that resources are available. Group working is an essential part of PBL. However, group work among students is not easy. For learning to be effective, the group must share knowledge and engage in their learning. It is vital that the group functions well and everyone takes up his or her role. In reality students often find group working difficult and they prefer to work on their own. How do we promote knowledge sharing among students? This paper describes those design and group issues that need to be addressed for PBL to be effective and successful.

Keywords: Problem Based Learning, learning outcomes, VLE.

Tom Page graduated in 1988 from Napier College, and then worked for Ferranti Defence Systems as a design engineer. In 1990, he returned to Napier as a Research Assistant and obtained an M.Phil. In 1992, he took up a teaching post in Computer-Aided Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire where was awarded a PhD in 2002. He has worked with the Open University. Tom is a Chartered Engineer with full membership of the Institution of Electrical Engineering (IEE) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Since May 2003, he has been teaching at Loughborough University. His research interests include learning technologies, electronics design and manufacture and logistics management. To date he has over 260 publications in these areas.

Gisli Thorsteinsson, is an Assistant Professor at Iceland University of Education, in the Department of Design and Craft. At present he is also a PhD student at Loughborough University, where he is exploring the values of using Virtual Learning Environment for ideation in general school education. Gisli has been the Chairman of the Association of Icelandic Industrial Arts Teachers since 1995 and is associated with the NST Coalition of Industrial Arts Teachers in Scandinavia. From 2000 he has been on the Board of ‘Nordfo’, the Pan Scandinavian co-operative researching art and design projects in Scandinavia. In 1999 he was involved in the National Curriculum development for technology education in Iceland and wrote the curriculum part for design and craft. Gisli has written numerous articles concerning design and craft education and has published several textbooks about innovation education.

Andrei Niculescu holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Arabic Philology from Bucharest University (1980). He obtained his MA in Applied Linguistics from the same university in 2003 and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Education. His background also includes extensive working experience in foreign trade as well as research in IT both in business operations and personnel training. Presently, Mr. Niculescu teaches Business English to undergraduate business students and his main research interests include: teaching strategies, e-learning, application of IT in teaching methodology, English for Specific Purposes and Second Language Acquisition. He is the coordinating editor and co-author of a textbook on Business English, the co-author of a dictionary of economic terms and of several research papers on education issues.

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CITE THIS PAPER AS:
Tom PAGE, Gisli THORSTEINSSON, Andrei NICULESCU, Management of Knowledge in a Problem Based Learning Environment, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 18 (3), pp. 255-262, 2009.

1. Introduction

PBL enables students to apply knowledge from different subject areas, to collaborate with others, to think critically, to reflect on their own learning, to communicate and to learn-to-learn. It involves goal setting, planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation and the problem is typically anchored in an authentic setting. PBL comprises learning activities that involve an in-depth study of the subject by a group of students working together to solve the problem. PBL provides an environment for students to investigate issues that address real world problems while integrating subjects from different disciplines of the curriculum. The environment enables students to interact and share their knowledge as a team. This also gives students the opportunity to learn negotiation skills, team working skills and communication and problem-solving skills.

In problem based learning, the tutor takes the role of a coach or facilitator to monitor learning. The tutor probes or challenges the students’ thinking, manages the group dynamic and learning process to make sure that all the students in the group are engaged and participating in sharing knowledge to resolve the given problem. During the tutorial process, the tutor facilitates the learning process by posing meta-cognitive questions such as, “What assumptions have you made?” “What did you do?” “How do you know?” etc. PBL thus fosters active learning, supports knowledge construction and integrates learning with real-life situations (Torp and Sage, 2002).

Crucial to the success of PBL is the design of ill-structured, often inter-disciplinary problems (Savery, 2006). It is important to design problems that are realistic and reflect real-world situations. Most problems in life are not simple, but ill-structured and have no single correct answer. These problems require students to consider alternatives and then provide a reasoned argument to support the solution(s) they derive at the end of the learning process (Hmelo-Silver and Barrows, 2006).

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