Introducing PBL in Engineering Education: Challenges Lecturers and Students Confront

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This article was originally published as:

Wan Hamiza, WMZ., Williams, A., & Sher, W. (2017). Introducing PBL in engineering education: Challenges lecturers and students confront [Special issue]. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33(3), 974-983.

ISSN: 0949-149X


099999 Engineering not elsewhere classified

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Problem-based learning (PBL) is widely used across the professional education sector and is now emerging in engineering education as both a viable and effective 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 gained popularity worldwide in many professional disciplinary fields. The PBL approach, as presented in literature, supports a shift from teacher-directed, or centred, learning to facilitation of students’ learning, thus shifting the focus to students’ learning. Facilitation, as practiced in PBL, involves a different style of teaching compared to traditionally accepted styles, and from the experience of both students and lecturers, brings with its adoption challenges. Importantly, a skilled PBL facilitator, who is secure in their role, can contribute significantly to the effectiveness of PBL groups’ work and thus to students’ learning. This paper reports on a qualitative study, and its findings, concerning 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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