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Problem-based Learning (PBL) Scenarios

Professor Maggi Savin-Baden (Work Package Leader) & Gemma Tombs (Research Assistant)


Learning Innovation Applied Research Group, Coventry University

Outline

The principal aim of this work package was to develop problem-based learning scenarios based upon the extensive resources provided by BT Archives. These would then be integrated into the BT Digital Archives. The intent was to support higher education in offering scientific, cultural and historical materials for the use of teachers, students, practitioners both in the UK and internationally. The resources provided by BT Archives span over a century and include both photographic and textual resources. It is extremely rare for archive resources to be used in disciplines other than History, and even rarer that these resources are combined with the student-focused pedagogy problem-based learning and, as such, the PBL scenarios produced as part of the BT Digital Archives Project provide a unique resource. Five scenarios were developed:

  1. Disability and Inequality in Employment (Social Care and Health discipline)

  2. Race and Racism in Healthcare (Social Care and Health discipline)

  3. Exercise Warm-ups in the 1910s and 1930s (Sports Therapy discipline)

  4. Text in Advertising (Graphic Design discipline)

  5. Gender in Advertising (Marketing discipline)

Outcomes, Findings and Recommendations

  1. Scenarios 1 and 2 were tested with a cohort of 600 students on a Social Care and Health module and were received positively by staff and students alike. Scenario 3 was tested with 100 students on a Sports Therapy module. Scenarios 4 and 5 have been tested with smaller focus groups and are likely to be embedded into future Marketing and Graphic Design modules. Coventry University's healthcare courses are now adapting courses to a problem-based learning pedagogy, with the possibility of Scenarios 1 and 2 being implemented within modules.

  2. Based upon the findings from the testing phase, several key recommendations have been made:

    • Practitioners using archive resources in problem-based learning contexts should highlight their relevance and importance for the course at the outset. Students struggled to see the immediate relevance of the archive resources; in order to ensure student engagement in the topic, the reasons for choosing archive-based problem-based learning needed to be made clear.

    • Students often struggled to accept a fundamental tenet of PBL: that there is no wrong answer. The adoption of the scenarios should be preceded by a clear outline of the aims, focus and values of PBL.

    • Practitioners' abilities to facilitate PBL pedagogies were important in determining the success of the scenario. Equally important, however, were practitioner attitudes towards problem-based learning. Whilst experience in PBL was not necessarily critical to success, a clear enthusiasm for the resources and pedagogy conveyed to the students was essential. We have therefore designed a ‘Guide to Problem-based Learning' to support its use, and this can be downloaded from the archive along with the scenarios. Savin-Baden (REF) also provides additional guidance.

    • Archive resources, by nature of their difference to today's practices, provided a means by which to consider everyday practices in a variety of contexts. By asking students to consider the difference in approaches to disabled employees in the 1940s, for example, practitioners challenged students to consider and justify the basis for today's practices and the reasoning behind employment discrimination. The archive resources seemed to be most helpful when used as prompts for considering everyday disciplinary practices and challenging students' assumptions about them.

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