Challenges of Introducing PBL in Engineering: Lecturers’ and Students’ Perspectives

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Publication Details

This conference proceeding was originally published as:

Wan Muhd Zin, W., Williams, A, & Sher, W. (2015). Challenges of introducing PBL in engineering: Lecturers’ and students’ perspectives. In E. de Graaff, A. Guerra, A. Kolmos & N. A. Arexolaleiba (Eds.), Global Research Community: Collaboration and Developments. (pp. 299-311). Aalborg, Denmark: Aalborg University Press.


Problem-based learning (PBL) has become widely used across the professional education sector and is now emerging in engineering education as a viable teaching and learning strategy. PBL originated some 45 years ago in medical education at universities in McMaster (Canada), Maastricht (Netherlands) and Newcastle (Australia), and since then has gain popularity worldwide in many fields.

The PBL approach as presented in literature supports a shift from teacher-directed learning to facilitation of students’ learning. Facilitation involves a different style of teaching compared to traditionally accepted styles, and from the experience of both students and lecturers, brings several challenges. A skilled PBL facilitator who is secure in his/her role can contribute significantly to the effectiveness of PBL groups’ work and thus to students’ learning.

This paper reports on a qualitative study of the experiences of academic staff and students at one institution, the German Malaysian Institute (GMI), in Malaysia. During interviews and focus groups, lecturers and students identified the challenges that lecturers face in effectively facilitating PBL. Analyses revealed two major themes that inhibit success: lecturers’ and students’ adaptation to PBL. These findings provide interesting insights into what is required to adapt to this mode of delivery.


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