Vol 37 No 3 (2007)

The Impact of Problem-Based Learning in an Interdisciplinary First-Year Program on Student Learning Behaviour


Canadian universities are struggling to address seemingly contradictory challenges pertaining to undergraduate education: high demand and underfunding. A number of instruments, including the National Survey of Student Engagement (National Survey of Student Engagement, n.d.), have led to greater priority being placed on the undergraduate experience. Yet, strategies to ensure student satisfaction with their education, through initiatives such as small classes and personal contact with faculty, seem at odds with the large classes necessitated by fiscal imperatives. We carried out a systematic investigation of the impact of one problem-based learning course on first year students’ experiences. We also investigated the persistence of skills and attitudes learned in this single exposure to problem-based learning. The results of our investigation show that this course had very positive effects on the immediate and persistent behaviours of students. Our research provides empirical evidence of the effectiveness of problem-based learning and leads us to suggest how a problem-based approach might help universities enhance the quality of education and the undergraduate experience.



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