From NSF STIS file "tip60310.txt"
Title  : Media Tipsheet March 20, 1996
Date   : March 20, 1996


Undergraduate students should be independent learners able to make reasoned decisions.

Those who attended a demonstration of problem-based learning at the 1996 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting found out how just this concept works by participating in a highly active problem-solving role.

The challenge? To determine the existence -- using critical thinking and analysis -- of a squawking, insect like (number of legs undetermined), penguin-eating ice borer that is found only in the Antarctic.

Given an article written for the April, 1995 edition of Discover Magazine on this unique story, the role of the diverse audience was to validate it.

The audience broke into small groups to determine the existence (or not) of the ice borer, using the same investigative skills and active group learning concepts now being explored by researchers to improve learning in undergraduate science disciplines.

"Students just don't get the opportunity to critically think, analyze, hypothesize and evaluate the way they should," Dr. Hal White, a University of Delaware biochemist, said.

White, through a NSF grant from the Division of Undergraduate Education heads a team of researchers in several disciplines who are working on problem-based learning in introductory undergraduate science courses. Part of this team was at the AAAS conference to conduct and monitor this exercise.

The conclusion? The ice borer was an April Fool's joke. The lesson was learned, however. Problem-based learning is an effort to overcome the tendency by students to get a superficial and sometimes incorrect view of basic science concepts learned through traditional lecture-oriented science courses. Students need to be fully engaged with course material through active group learning methods to fully grasp concepts, researchers say. [Bill Noxon]

Last updated Feb. 20, 1997.
Copyright Univ. of Delaware, 1997.