"How can I get my students to think?" is a question asked by many faculty, regardless of their disciplines. They say that their students seem to lack the ability or motivation to go beyond factual knowledge to a deeper understanding of the course material. Indeed, they seem to have difficulty connecting basic principles and concepts to their related essential applications. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn," working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources.
Since the summer of 1992, over one hundred and fifty faculty and administrators have attended one or more PBL workshops sponsored by CTE. Many of those teachers are now using these student-centered learning methods in their classes. In January, 1995, we published our first About Teaching issue devoted to PBL. That issue defined PBL and had several articles written by faculty who have used problem-based techniques in their courses. If you are interested in another copy of that issue, please contact CTE (X2027) or you may access those articles on the UD PBL Webpage (http://www.udel.edu/pbl/).
This issue highlights large enrollment courses that have adapted PBL (Al Thompson, Geology and Linda Dion, Biology), courses using peer tutors (Deborah Allen, Biology, Sherry Kitto, Plant and Soil Sciences, and Lesa Griffiths, Animal and Food Sciences), an Art History class (Mark P. Miller) and a comparative study of PBL vs. lecture format (Elizabeth Lieux, Nutrition and Dietetics). Students (Jennifer Johnson, Amy Robinson, Todd Rudo, and Trish Westenbroek) who have taken a PBL course and also served as peer tutors describe their experiences in the two roles. The questions, "What makes a good PBL problem?" and "How can I write my own?" are addressed and examples of problems in biology and physics are highlighted.
If you are new to PBL and want to find out more about it -- consider coming to the Fifth Annual Conference at Clayton Hall on June 9-12. Details are in this issue.