Crafting Challenging PBL Problems in Engineering Curricula

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Conference Proceeding

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This conference proceeding was originally published as:

Wan Muhd Zin, W., Sher, W., & Williams, A. (2015). Crafting challenging PBL problems in engineering curricula. Paper presented at The Construction, Building and Real Estate Research Conference of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (COBRA) and the Australasian Universities’ Building Educators Association Conference (AUBEA), Sydney, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.rics.org/au/knowledge/research/conference-papers/crafting-challenging-pbl-problems-in-engineering-curricula/


Problem Based Learning (PBL) is becoming widely used in engineering education. PBL, as a teaching approach, is claimed to stimulate students in higher order thinking, encourage discussion and exploration, enhance problem solving skills and encourage the interest of learners. Crafting challenging and engaging problems is critical in PBL. Educators need to acknowledge the strategies which support the development of effective PBL problems. Studies have found that crafting problems for PBL courses in engineering is considered a challenging task, especially in environments where the only method of imparting technical education has been through a combination of traditional lectures, tutorials and practical exercises.

This paper documents the results of an on-going study of the experiences of academic staff implementing PBL at one institution in Malaysia, the German Malaysian Institute (GMI). Interviews were conducted with twenty PBL facilitators to explore lecturers’ challenges and support needs in PBL. Their responses revealed that crafting engineering problems and gauging their effectiveness is a major challenge. This paper provides an overview of the features of effective problems, the principles associated with crafting such problems, and a checklist to guide those involved in the crafting process.


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