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ERIC Number: EJ807698
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 18
ISSN: ISSN-1547-9714
Using a Problem-Based Learning Approach to Teach an Intelligent Systems Course
Cheong, France
Journal of Information Technology Education, v7 p47-60 2008
While delivering the Intelligent Systems course, an elective course in the Master of Business Information Technology program at RMIT University, it was felt that there was a learning issue as students' learning seemed to be superficial. This perception was based on the questions students asked in class and the mechanical attitude they adopted while doing lab work. In the next version of the course, it was decided to trial a problem-based learning (PBL) teaching and learning approach in order to improve students' learning experience. PBL is a revolutionary and radical teaching approach. It is completely different from the traditional lecture-tutorial approach as there is a shift of power from the "expert teacher" to the "student learner". In the traditional teacher-centered approach, the teacher is knowledgeable in the subject matter and the focus of teaching is on the transmission of knowledge from the expert teacher to the novice student. In contrast, the PBL approach is a student-centered approach in which the focus is on student's learning and what they do to achieve this. In such an environment, the role of the teacher is more of a facilitator than an instructor. In order to use PBL effectively, it is important to understand how it is grounded in current theories of teaching and learning so that insights from these theories can be applied to refine the practice of PBL. Findings from cognitive psychology suggest that learning is a constructive and not a receptive process. Cognitive processes known as "metacognition" affect the use of knowledge, and social and contextual factors affect learning. When educating students, explicit attention should be paid to their existing knowledge to provide them a framework for learning. Learning is quicker when students possess self-monitoring skills known as "metacognition" (i.e. the student's ability to analyze, reflect on, and understand his or her own cognitive and learning processes). Metacognitive skills allow students to monitor their own learning and, contrary to prior beliefs, they can be taught. Learning must be contextualized in order to be effective and social factors also affect learning since students evolve their problem-solving methods and conceptual knowledge when working in small groups. When using the PBL approach, it is necessary for students to follow a carefully planned process to guide them through the complex tasks of brainstorming, identifying useful knowledge, formulating appropriate research questions, and working out strategies for finding solutions. The PBL process used was adapted from the literature. When redesigning the course, it was decided to retain the first part of the course as this part operated without major problems. Delivering the whole course using the PBL approach was considered too risky because of a complete shift from one extreme (teacher-centered learning) to another (student-centered learning). Furthermore using a PBL approach in one part of the course would enable comparison with the traditional method used in another part of the course. The re-designed course was offered in semester 1, 2006, and the first part of the course ran smoothly without any apprehension about programming from students (this was a concern in the previous version of the course). Since PBL is a drastic change in learning approach and students are encouraged to be active rather than passive and co-operate rather than compete, they must be prepared for the new approach in order to minimize potentially distressing aspects and maximize learning opportunities. An induction to PBL was offered to students in the first session of the second part of the course. The PBL approach was evaluated using a questionnaire survey at the end of the course. Although 88% of students enjoyed the PBL experience, their preferences leaned towards a combined traditional and PBL approach. (Contains 2 figures and 1 table.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia