A Newsletter of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness
Spring 1996

From the Student's Point of View

Having a degree in engineering already, I was skeptical about taking a physiology class in the problem-based learning format. I thought that I had spent enough time learning how to solve problems. I just wanted all of the information I needed to be given to me. As it turned out, the class was one of the most enjoyable and useful classes that I have ever taken.

PBL made the class very enjoyable and the information that I studied has been retained. Since my classmates and I were responsible for our own as well as each other's learning, the class was exciting and motivating.

In addition to being a very effective teaching method, PBL changed the way I approach my research projects. I have learned to be a more effective and efficient worker. Consequently, I am more productive and have more free time than I have had in the past.

-- Ed Quigley (EGGR)

PBL cultivates an environment that fosters learning rather than competition -- the grading for my physiology class was based upon both individual and group work.

I believe that, if planned diligently, a class taught using PBL can benefit students in studying almost any subject. Such a class teaches a student more than the material listed on a syllabus. As I prepared for each class, I learned to expand my research skills in order to find new sources. In addition, preparing material for each class meeting prevented me from procrastinating and cramming for tests. In summary, I would encourage students to take a PBL course during their years at the University because of the great potential to learn skills which remain important throughout an individual's lifetime.

-- Melissa D. Koenig (ASSR)

Problem-based learning is challenging but it is also fun, and helped me acquire some key skills that I have needed in other classes at Delaware. It demonstrates the importance of individual work and helped me become more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people. It also built strong ties of friendship within our groups and our class because we learned how to work together in groups. I would love to take more problem-based learning classes -- they make you want to learn!

-- Amanda Pottorff (ASSO)

We learned to isolate what we did not understand, research it to comprehension, and present new information to the rest of the group. This method has been applicable to situations outside the classroom. When presented with a problem, I now consider what I do not really understand, and then attack the problem from there.

-- Christian Hermansen (ASSR)

The PBL format is a great alternative to the traditional lecture-and-read-the textbook type of class. It is a way to openly communicate with a group of peers while still learning difficult concepts. If someone in my group had a question, another member of the group could almost always answer it. Last semester, when I was taking a general physiology class, I realized how valuable my PBL Introductory Biology class had been. I easily recalled the information gained from the problems, which decreased the study time needed for my physiology class. It is my hope that professors will realize the great value of problem-based learning so that in the future more classes will be taught using this method of teaching.

-- Jennifer Hess (ASSO)

I took both semesters of the problem-based learning Honors Introductory Biology in my freshman year. I feel because of these courses I learned a great deal more than mere facts. I developed an ability to present my ideas clearly to my peers and superiors. When I read about a topic now, I subconsciously identify learning issues. I also try to look deeper into the subject matter. I realized freshman year that looking deeper into the subject makes understanding the required information much easier. During freshman year, I developed a feeling of independence coupled with comraderie among members of my group. It was a real challenge researching learning issues, but knowing that my group was there to support me relaxed me enough to allow me to perform my best. PBL allowed me to mature intellectually and socially. I developed an ability to independently reason through material I do not understand. In college this is a most valuable skill. I do not think that I would have developed these skills as quickly if I had only taken traditional lecture courses. With the increase in complexity of knowledge (especially in biology), PBL will become an important and necessary part of courses and will allow students to develop more than a cursory understanding of the material required for their courses.

-- David DeFeo (ASJR)

I am a first-year graduate student from China. Last semester, I took problem-based learning advanced mammalian physiology. It benefitted me for many reasons. Students in my country usually don't study in groups. This was my first time taking this course. At first, I was very shy to express my opinion. The main reason for it is that I didn't want to make mistakes in front of my classmates and the professor. Continuously encouraged by my group members and instructor, I felt much more comfortable to ask questions and join the discussion by the end of the semester.

Part of the contents of this course overlapped with my research. Discussion with my group members and the professor helped me clarify some stuff in my research, which was pretty valuable. As a foreign student, language problems are unavoidable, especially in this kind of class. Both my group members and the professor were very nice and patient, which increased my confidence. Chatting with other students in the break and speaking out in the discussion really allowed me a good chance to practice English and overcome my nervousness.

In summary, at the end of the semester, I not only learned more about physiology but also improved my spoken English. I feel freer now to express myself before lots of people, which is very important for my future such as thesis defense and giving a presentation.

-- Jun Ding (ASGR)

Last updated Feb. 20, 1997.
Copyright Center for Teaching Effectiveness, Univ. of Delaware, 1996.