New Research makes Powerful Case PBL

Project-based learning (PBL) or project-based education is an instructional strategy that allows students to build knowledge and skills via interesting projects that are based on real-world difficulties and issues.

Project-based learning, a popular approach that involves a lot of poster boards and student presentations, is marketed as an alternative to dull classrooms where professors drone on and on. Hands-on projects, according to supporters, stimulate children to study, think critically, solve issues, and collaborate with their classmates. However, whether pupils can study any topic in this manner is debatable.

Studies have determined that pupils who learnt science and social studies through a rigorous project-based curriculum over the course of a year outperformed those who learned those subjects in the traditional way that teachers at their schools taught them. Project-based learning produced better outcomes on a number of examinations, ranging from Advanced Placement exams in high school to annual state assessments in math and reading in sixth grade.

The predominance of project-based learning (PBL) has grown dramatically, contributing to major debates over its introduction. Critics of PBL question if emphasizing the practice helps teachers use a technocratic way of teaching rather than fostering learning that is sensitive to students’ ideas. Thus, the objective of this research is to expand on the usefulness of the PBL approach as a technique of engaging students in learning, as well as to include literature on the PBL method for educational reasons. As a result, the study hypotheses assess the impact of the PBL technique on collaborative learning, disciplinary subject learning, iterative learning, and genuine learning, all of which engage students in learning. To fulfill the research goal, a questionnaire was used as the primary technique of data collection and was sent to 124 instructors that used the PBL technique. The findings were obtained using structural equation modeling (SEM), a quantitative research tool. The PBL technique was shown to have a substantial relationship with collaborative learning, disciplinary subject learning, iterative learning, and genuine learning, all of which resulted in student engagement. The findings indicate that the PBL approach increases student participation by facilitating knowledge and information exchange and discussion. As a result, the PBL technique is highly recommended for student educational usage and should be supported at institutions.

Concept of PBL approach

When designing, executing, and/or assessing a course, two or more teachers at a certain level collaborate (Carpenter et al., 2007), which primarily entails the sharing of training knowledge and reflective discourse (Chang & Lee, 2010). The PBL method has been proved to give novice instructors diverse and important learning opportunities while also supporting their professional and personal growth (Tsybulsky & Muchnik-Rozanov, 2019). Working as part of a team helps instructors share their knowledge and abilities in a number of areas, allowing them to go from “expert learner” to “expert.” Classroom collaboration allows instructors and students to participate in the discovery process (Wentworth & Davis, 2002). Specific topics might be tackled from a unique perspective or through a pedagogical style including cooperation that delivers a highly rich learning experience.

The PBL approach can assist student teachers by providing professional and emotional support (e.g., Gardiner & Robinson, 2009), enhanced professional learning (e.g., educational skills), and personal growth (Simons & Baeten, 2016). (e.g., again in confidence; King, 2006). According to Wassell and LaVan, they are able to examine their practices through learning through conversation and the exchange of experiences (Wassell & LaVan, 2009). Despite this, instructors who work in groups succeed more than those who work alone because of teamwork (Gardiner, 2010). Teachers perform better when they are supported by their colleagues (Walsh & Elmslie, 2005). The relevance of mentors in the PBL process cannot be overstated. They encourage student teachers, for example, to build professional contacts. Furthermore, both group and individual feedback is provided (Scantlebury et al., 2008) Mentors give guidance and assistance to student teachers (Carter & Francis, 2001); nevertheless, peers are more commonly useful to student teachers than mentors (Hsu, 2005), who have a less direct part in the PBL method process (Bullough et al., 2003). The PBL method has both advantages and disadvantages. For student teachers, the extra burden of PBL (i.e., interactive lesson design, peer reflection) is time-consuming (Gardiner & Robinson, 2009; Nokes et al., 2008). Furthermore, unfriendliness among group members might have a detrimental impact on all participants (Bashan & Holsblat, 2012; Gardiner & Robinson, 2009). Working with peers is sometimes an unexpected circumstance for students and teachers who have become accustomed to working alone (Bashan & Holsblat, 2012). Furthermore, student instructors contend that their personal achievement in PBL may be less relevant than in an individual learning setting and that they may lose confidence in their autonomous learning due to a lack of individual experience (Gardiner & Robinson, 2009; Kamens, 2007).

Process of PBL

A study looked at how students in a PBL session develop their knowledge throughout the issue analysis and reporting phase. 33 Students’ and facilitators’ discourses were investigated and documented in order to demonstrate how both groups played essential roles in the collaborative and communal knowledge development process. This research revealed how an expert facilitator successfully employed open-ended metacognitive questions to stimulate student discussion and how students’ collective knowledge increased through verbal exchanges in the PBL session. However, no association was investigated, if any, between the quality of students’ verbal contributions and their later learning outcomes.

The studies that were described above focused on two of the PBL phases: issue analysis and reporting. However, there is very little study on the subject. One study of the self-directed learning phase looked at the relationship between student-generated learning issues during the problem analysis phase and what students actually studied during their self-directed study time,34 finding that students only used the learning issues they generated during the problem analysis phase to determine their self-directed study activities to a limited extent: what they did during the self-study phase was also influential. Students who researched beyond the learning difficulties established by the tutorial group during the initial problem analysis phase earned superior exam scores, according to another study concentrating on the self-study phase. Because both of these research relied on retrospective self-reports from students, the results may be distorted. Although the research mentioned above gives insight into certain learning periods of the PBL cycle, there are fewer studies that look at the overall PBL process, including all phases. One research investigated the relationship between input characteristics such as issue quality, tutor performance, and student’s prior knowledge, process variables such as group functioning and time spent on self-directed study, and learning outcomes. 36 The authors discovered that the difficulty of an issue affects group functioning, which in turn determines how much time is spent on individual study. More time spent on individual studies resulted in improved learning outcomes. This model was refined further in another research that looked more closely at what happened to learners during the processes.  

It has been suggested that the study needed to understand how the particular phases of the PBL process affect students’ learning should be focused on the specific learning activities that occur within the phases. 

One research focused on the verbal exchanges throughout the full PBL cycle, including the self-directed learning stage, in an attempt to focus on the activities going on in the PBL process.

Because theories of learning suggest that these learning activities are vital in the learning process, the authors wanted to see how much PBL fosters particular learning dispositions toward constructive, self-directed, and collaborative learning. They witnessed all three actions within the PBL cycle under investigation, albeit to varying degrees, with 53.3 per cent observing all three.

53.3 per cent of events were collaborative, 27.2 percent self-directed, and 15.7 percent productive, according to the data. Another research employed structural equation modeling to show that the PBL process of issue analysis, self-directed learning, and final reporting, as stated in the literature, is valid. 40 The failure of models to match data revealed that learning in PBL cannot be described solely in terms of collaborative learning or individual self-directed learning. Rather, the impact of each PBL step on student learning outcomes was dependent on the order in which they were implemented.

However, the results of another research were quite different. The authors used a subtractive technique to show that involvement with the topic appears to be the most important factor in PBL.

The authors used a subtractive method to show that the most effective aspect of PBL appears to be engagement with the problem rather than the social collaborative aspect—they found no significant differences in performance between students in a PBL team learning condition and those in a PBL individual condition. 41 Both of these groups outperformed students in the lecture condition considerably. As the authors point out, this does not negate the importance of the social collaborative component of PBL; nonetheless, more thorough research is needed to determine the amount to which the various components of PBL influence students’ learning.

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